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Final 2011 AFC Seedings

With the regular season over, let’s take a look back at the regular season & see how we arrived at the final seedings of the AFC. Let’s GO!

#1 – NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS 13-3

Highest Seed = #1 (Weeks 2, 6, 7, 11, 13, 15, 16, 17)
Lowest Seed = #6 (Weeks 3, 4, 8)

As you can see, the Patriots were in the playoffs from the jump and never left the fold. The AFC East was surprisingly weak this season with the Jets falling off. The only reason the Patriots weren’t battling for a #1 seed the entire season is because they lost to Buffalo early in the season while the Bills jumped out to a 5-2 start. If Buffalo could have kept that momentum going, the Patriots might have been relegated to Wild Card status, but the Bills fell off completely. The Jets never got around to finding an offense which for the most part made them irrelevant. The surprise team in all of this is Miami. If the Dolphins had played the first half of the season like they did the 2nd half, they might have given New England a run for their money. The Patriots will be interesting to watch in the playoffs. While they do have home field advantage throughout the playoffs, their defense is atrocious. If Joe Flacco or Ben Roethlisberger don’t get to the Pats defense, you can be sure Aaron Rodgers or Drew Brees will.

#2 – BALTIMORE RAVENS 12-4

Highest Seed = #1 (Weeks 1, 9)
Lowest Seed = #7 (Weeks 7, 8)

Much like the Patriots, the Ravens were in the playoff fold from the beginning. While the Patriots had to deal with only the upstart Bills at the beginning of the season, Baltimore had to deal with a Cincinnati Bengals team that leaped out to a 6-2 start as well as playoff stalwart Pittsburgh. Baltimore never had a worse record than Pittsburgh, but during weeks 7 & 8, the bye weeks played a role in the AFC North as Pittsburgh had played more games than Baltimore & thus had a better record. The problem with Baltimore is their 4 losses. It’s not that the team should be questioned because they went 12-4. That’s an incredible season. Balitmore should be questioned because those 4 losses came against Tennessee (9-7),  Jacksonville (5-11), Seattle (7-9), & San Diego (8-8). The Titans loss doesn’t look horrible in retrospect especially because it was in Nashville, but the Jaguars & Seahawks losses were horrible. Those 2 games were the difference between 12-4 & 14-2. Maybe it won’t matter. Baltimore still gets a bye & a home game. If New England loses at home in the Divisional Round, then Baltimore has home field advantage in the AFC Championship game. For those wondering, Baltimore would have needed to beat Jacksonville in order to get to the tiebreakers with the Patriots at 13-3. A win over Seattle would have still given New England the #1 seed as Baltimore would have been 9-3 in conference while New England would have been 10-2. If Baltimore would have beaten the Jaguars, then they would have had the #1 seed because Baltimore would have won the “common games, minimum 4” tiebreaker 4-0 to 3-1. You can argue that the Jaguars game was monumental, but if that’s the case then New England’s 34-31 loss to Buffalo would be just as important.

#3 – HOUSTON TEXANS 10-6

Highest Seed = #1 (Weeks 4, 10, 12, 14)
Lowest Seed = #4 (Weeks 5, 7)

Houston had a great year with Peyton Manning being out all season in Indianapolis. As you can see, they not only didn’t leave the playoff fold, Houston never spent a week in the seedings where they weren’t hosting a playoff game! Houston had a rough season when it came to injuries. They lost Schaub in their 10th game against Tampa Bay. The win over the Bucs made Houston 7-3 and the #1 seed in the AFC after Week #10. Backup QB Matt Leinart lasted all of 1 game before rookie QB TJ Yates took over. The Texans were 2-3 to end the season after starting 8-3, but you couldn’t expect much given the QB situation. WR Andre Johnson also missed 10 games while DE Mario Williams missed 11. You could argue that Williams & Johnson are Houston’s two best players. The only really terrible loss on the schedule for Houston is a late season loss to the 2-14 Indianapolis Colts, but outside of that, Houston is right where they probably should be. The loss to Carolina seems plausible given how beat up Houston has been. Whether they were 10-6 or 11-5, the Texans were going to be locked into the #3 seed. Even if you count the Carolina game as a win, Baltimore would have the head-to-head tiebreaker over Houston at 12-4. Another argument could be made for Houston’s Week 5 25-20 loss to Oakland in Houston. Those 3 losses turned to wins puts Houston at 13-3. If Houston wins those games at 13-3 they are the #1 seed having the “conference record” tiebreakers over the Patriots.

#4 – DENVER BRONCOS 8-8

Highest Seed = #4 (Weeks 14, 15, 16, 17)
Lowest Seed = #16 (Week 1)

The Broncos story is well known at this point. Kyle Orton is the starting QB & the Broncos get off to a 1-4 start. Enter Tim Tebow. The Chosen One immediately wins his first game in an 18-15 OT victory over the struggling Dolphins. The next week the Broncoss get hammered at home 45-10 by the Detroit Lions. That was what most people expected when Tebow took over, but oddly enough, the Broncos couldn’t stop winning games from that point. Tebow led Denver to 6 straight victories which put Denver at 8-5 & stop the AFC West standings. Unfortunately for the Broncos, Tebow wouldn’t win another regular season game losing 3 straight to the Patriots, Bills, & Chiefs. Because the Chargers & Raiders couldn’t string wins together late in the season, Denver still wound up winning the tie-breaker in the AFC West by “common opponents”. Against common opponents, Denver was 7-7 while the Raiders & Chargers were both 6-8. A very tough situation to be in, but let’s be honest. After starting 1-4 & then handing the reigns to Tebow, what #15 did was nothing short of miraculous. Going 7-4 down the stretch is nothing to sneeze at.

#5 – PITTSBURGH STEELERS 12-4

Highest Seed = #1 (Week 8)
Lowest Seed = #14 (Week 1)

Despite having the 2nd best record in the AFC, the Steelers are going to have to settle for a Wild Card slot & a road game in every playoff game they play unless the Bengals go on a tear & wind up playing Pittsburgh in the AFC Championship game! Pittsburgh got their 12 wins honestly. Their 4 losses came against the Ravens (12-4) twice, the 49ers (13-3) and the Texans (10-6). That’s a combined record of 47-17! Keep in mind also that 3 of those games were on the road! The one slip up that cost Pittsburgh the #1 seed in the AFC is their home loss to the Ravens. Assuming solid teams split, winning their home contest, the loss to Baltimore at Heinz Field really killed Pittsburgh’s chances at owning home field advantage. Pittsburgh beat New England during the regular season, so a home win over the Ravens would have made Pittsburgh 13-3 & the #1 overall seed. It will be really intersting to see what happens with the Steelers. It’s almost impossible to beat a team like Pittsburgh 3 straight times in a single season. If Cincinnati can beat Houston & Pittsburgh beats Denver, then Pittsburgh would go to Baltimore to play the Ravens a 3rd time. If Houston wins then Pittsburgh will get a rematch against New England who they already beat in the Steel City. The 5th seed is a tough place to be.

#6 – CINCINNATI BENGALS 9-7

Highest Seed = #5 (Weeks 6, 7, 8, 9)
Lowest Seed = #11 (Week 3)

The Bengals finish up a dream season finishing up 9-7 including a playoff berth. I don’t think anyone expected the Bengals to be in the playoffs breaking in a rookie QB along with a rookie WR as their biggest play making threat but here they are. There is a massive lesson to be learned from Cincinnati this season. If you can find ways to win the games you should win, you’ll be in the thick of it. A couple of breaks go your way & you find a way to get into the playoffs where anything can happen. Cincinnati parlayed & easy early schedule into a 6-2 record without having faced either Pittsburgh or Baltimore. Even assuming 4 losses against those division foes, Cincinnati could wind up 10-6 & comfortably in the playoffs. Cincinnati came close to pulling it off. They dropped a game to Houston which pushed them to 7 losses, but they did get wins over Arizona, St. Louis & Cleveland to get to 9 wins. While the Bengals aren’t a threat to win the AFC, keep in mind their 7 losses came against the Steelers (twice), Ravens (twice), Broncos, Texans & 49ers. Every game Cincy lost was to a playoff team! Of course, they don’t have a win against any playoff teams, but their Week 9 game in Nashville turned out to be of critical importance. After being down 17-7 at halftime, the Bengals rallied in the 2nd half to score 17 unanswered to win 24-17! If Tennessee wins that game, the Titans are the #6 seed & not Cincinnati. Andy Dalton’s career couldn’t have gotten off to a better start.

#7 – TENNESSEE TITANS 9-7

Highest Seed = #4 (Week 6)
Lowest Seed = #10 (Weeks 1, 7)

A very tough year for the Titans. The 9-7 finish looks pretty solid, but Tennessee has to be a bit disappointed in how the season went. Chris Johnson never really got on track & while Matt Hasselbeck was a solid option while Jake Locker gained some experience, the veteran threw a few too many interceptions for my liking. The schedule doesn’t look pretty either as the Titans would love to have some more shots against the Jaguars, Colts & Bengals. Those 3 losses there could have put Tennessee at 12-4 which would have been good enough for the overall #2 seed as the Titans actually owned the tie-breaker against the Ravens! The defense actually played better than the sum of their parts, and as much as you can’t necessarily lay blame on a single player in a team sport, Chris Johnson’s horrific season (by his standards) definitely didn’t help a sputtering offense. If Tennessee had more of a running threat how far could they have gone? The Titans basically threw away a season they could have made serious noise in!

#8 – NEW YORK JETS 8-8

Highest Seed = #6 (Weeks 2, 14, 15)
Lowest Seed = #12 (Week 5)

No playoff heroics for Mark Sanchez this season. No playoff boasting for Rex Ryan. The Jets didn’t even make it interesting in the final week of the season by losing to Miami & ending the year 8-8. With some of the above teams, it’s easy to look at particular games and say the beat blew a bunny against an inferior opponents. That isn’t necesssarily true in New York’s case. The Jets have 8 losses, but those losses came against Oakland, Baltimore, New England (twice), Philadelphia, NY Giants, Denver & Miami. The Oakland, Denver, Philadelphia & Miami losses were all on the road. Miami came in the 2nd half of the season where the Dolphins were a playoff squad. The Denver loss came at the height of Tebow mania. Philly was always better than their record. The Giants are in the playoffs. When they loss to Oakland it was early in the season when Jason Campbell & Darren McFadden were still playing. New York’s defense never really got going against opposing runners while the offense struggled all season. Putting aside the two playoff runs in 2009 & 2010. Mark Sanchez has been the Jets QB for 3 seasons & he’s not been very good. In a conference with Tom Brady, Ben Roethlisberger, Joe Flacco, Peyton Manning, Matt Schaub & Philip Rivers, having a sub-par QB isn’t going to cut it.

#9 – SAN DIEGO CHARGERS 8-8

Highest Seed = #2 (Week 5)
Lowest Seed = #13 (Week 12)

Really a tale of 3 seasons for the Chargers. They started off the season on the right foot going 4-1 & looking dominant through the first 6 weeks of the season. Then the bottom fell out of the season when the Bolts proceeded to lose six straight games to watch their 4-1 start turn into 4-7 and last place in the AFC West. Then the season ended on a 4-1 streak that moved SD to an 8-8 final record. The middle 6 losses were tough & San Diego is certainly an abject lesson in the idea that 16-games is hardly enough to measure how good a team really is. Five of the 6 losses were considered “close” so San Diego could have easily went 5-1 in those 6 games which would have put their final season mark at 13-3! In an odd way Denver & San Diego were mirror opposites. The Chargers got off to a 4-1 start while the Broncos went 1-4. While the Chargers were going 0-6, the Broncos were going 5-1. In the end, Denver went 2-3 while San Diego went 4-1, but the Chargers ended up shorted on the “common games” tiebreaker. This season might cost Norv Turner & AJ Smith their jobs, but a lot of that culpability rests on how much of a factor you believe coaching plays in close games.

#10 – OAKLAND RAIDERS 8-8

Highest Seed = #3 (Weeks 2, 3)
Lowest Seed = #11 (Weeks 8, 9)

The Raiders had plenty of chances to win the West, but failed at the end by finishing the season losing 4 of their last 5 games after being 7-4 after 11 contests. Hue Jackson is out as HC so there will be a new coach roaming the sidelines in Oakland next season. There are a couple of thoughts with the Raiders. The first is that they caught a tough break with Jason Campbell getting knocked out for the year after 6 games. The Raiders were 4-2 in Campbell’s 6 starts, and while Carson Palmer completed the same percentage of passes as Campbell did, my guess is that Campbell might not have thrown as many picks as Palmer did showing how rusty the former Bengal might have been. Oakland also caught a bad break with Darren McFadden’s injury woes coming back to haunt him. When he played, McFadden had an incredible 5.4ypc average. Michael Bush did a formidable job filling in, but his 3.8ypc average showed he didn’t belong in the same class as Run-DMC. Given how pitiful the AFC West was this season, I don’t think you can point to an awful loss for Oakland. They simply couldn’t get a win when they needed it. Their is the semblance of a very competitive football team here, but they’ll have to figure out their defense to take it to the next level.

#11 – KANSAS CITY CHIEFS 7-9

Highest Seed = #4 (Weeks 8, 9)
Lowest Seed = #15 (Week 1)

Coming off their 10-6 division winning 2010 campaign, the 7-9 season might look like a disappointment, but it was about what you could expect from KC going into 2011. Remember that KC had to play all the 1st place teams in the AFC from a year ago while also taking on the NFC North and the AFC East! The only thing worse would have been taking on the AFC North instead of the East and potentially the NFC South. There wasn’t a horrible loss on the schedule considering that they got Buffalo while the Bills were hot early in the season. What really stands out in retrospect with Kansas City is what happened after they beat San Diego 23-20 in OT on Halloween! The win over the Chargers put KC at 4-3 and in first place in the AFC West via tiebreakers. Their next two games came against the Dolphins & Broncos in Arrowhead. Miami at the time was 0-7, but KC dropped the game 31-3! The next game Denver was 3-5, but Tebowmania had taken hold & KC dropped that game 17-10. Those two losses turned to wins would have put KC at 9-7 & AFC West champions for the 2nd time in as many years. A 7-9 season isn’t great, but KC had injury problems at QB all season. Eric Berry never played. Jamaal Charles basically missed the entire season. If the Chiefs get their full compliment of players, odds are good they are in the playoffs right now.

#12 – MIAMI DOLPHINS 6-10

Highest Seed = #11 (Week 1)
Lowest Seed = #16 (Week 4)

Possibly the most interesting team in football this past season, Miami got off to an 0-7 start before finishing the season 6-3! If you only looked at the 2nd half of the season, the Miami’s 5-3 record over their final 8 games would have been good enough to snag the last Wild Card spot in the AFC. This was a playoff team in the last half of the season! Let that sink in for a minute! The Dolphins were 2-5 in close games. Let’s assume those 5 games go the other way & you would know that Miami could have easily been 11-5 and in the playoffs as the #6 seed. The only real bad losses on the resume were gaffes against Cleveland & Denver, but it probably wouldn’t have made a difference. Even those two losses turned wins would have only put Miami at 8-8. That horrific start essentially cost Tony Sporano his job, but Miami isn’t far away. Reggie Bush rushed for over 1,000 yards & is the real deal finding his footing finally in the NFL. There are plenty of pieces on offense combined with a very nasty rush defense. All Miami has to figure out is a way to improve the pass defense a bit, figure out if Matt Moore is the answer at QB & find a new HC. The East is ripe for the taking given New England putrid defense & Brady’s age.

#13 – BUFFALO BILLS 6-10

Highest Seed = #1 (Weeks 3, 5)
Lowest Seed = #13 (Weeks 15, 17)

Buffalo started extremely strong going 5-2 in their first 7 games. Five of those 7 games were close & Buffalo benefited by winning 3 of them which gave them the 5 wins as they blew out the Redskins & Chiefs early on. Unfortunately those good times didn’t last. Like San Diego, the Bills went on a horrific losing streak, dropping their next 7 games & 8 of their last 9! The Bills were winning games with their offense as the defense was terrible from the start, but when Fred Jackson started missing games, CJ Spiller couldn’t quite replicate Jackson’s stellar work in the backfield and the offense struggled a bit. Buffalo didn’t really have a bad loss in those 7 losses that cursed the season, but it is interesting that 3 of them were close. If the ball bounces the other way for Buffalo then the Bills wind up 9-7 & potentially in that last wild card spot. I’m not sure if Ryan Fitzpatrick is the answer at QB for Buffalo, but if they shore up the defense, this team will be alright. A tough end to a very promising start.

#14 – JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS 5-11

Highest Seed = #7 (Week 2)
Lowest Seed = #15 (Weeks 13, 14, 15, 16)

No real issue with Jacksonville. They gambled on a horrific QB situation after cutting David Garrard. It was a tough situation to be sure. The defense was top-10 caliber while Maurice Jones-Drew had an incredible season. Jack Del Rio won’t be back as HC so there is a lot that will be new with the Jaguars. The only real terrible loss was against Cleveland, but the Browns were playing at home & it’s not like Jacksonville is any good. Even a win over Cleveland would have made the Jaguars 6-10. This team just sucked so bad at QB. The Jags have the #7 pick in the 2012 NFL Draft. It’ll be interesting to see if they are sold in Blaine Gabbert. If Robert Griffin is there, do the Jags hope to hit a Cam Newton like HR with RG3?

#15 – CLEVELAND BROWNS 4-12

Highest Seed = #7 (Week 3)
Lowest Seed = #15 (Week 17)

Cleveland really doesn’t have much. Oddly enough the scoring defense was pretty amazing, but offensively Cleveland was atrocious. Here is something interesting to look at. This season was Colt McCoy’s 2nd season in Cleveland. He wasn’t the immediate starter in year 1 the way Mark Sanchez was in New York, but take a look at their 2nd year numbers:

McCoy: 265 of 463 (57.2%) for 2,733 yards, 14TD, 11INT
Sanchez: 278 of 507 (54.8%) for 3,291 yards, 17TD, 13INT

There really isn’t all that much difference. The interesting argument is that if McCoy isn’t the right guy in Cleveland, then how can Sanchez be the right guy in New York? If Sanchez is the right guy in New York, then how can Cleveland abandon McCoy when he’s doing more with less? The Browns started off decent at 3-3, but ended the season 1-9 which is terrible. Considering that the AFC North got 3 of their 4 teams in the playoffs, you sort of had to expect one team to be a punching bag. That team was the Cleveland Browns. It also doesn’t help that Peyton Hillis & Montario Hardesty pretty much didn’t give Cleveland anything this year while their biggest skill position threat was rookie WR Greg Little. Very tough year for the Browns.

#16 – INDIANAPOLIS COLTS 2-14

Highest Seed = #13 (Week 1)
Lowest Seed = #16 (Weeks 2, 3, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17)

Wow. The Colts sucked to open the season & really never let up. Losing Peyton Manning for an entire season will do that for a team. Looking at this team from a big picture perspective, you can’t really fault the Colts for not having a backup QB. They never had to have one. Jim Sorgi did an excellent job as a clipboard holder until Curtis Painter was ready. Where the fault lies a little bit is having a capable backup QB that actually belongs in the NFL. Curtis Painter doesn’t fit that description. Neither does Kerry Collins. Look at what Miami did with Matt Moore when Chad Henne went down. Look at what happened to New England with Matt Cassel when Tom Brady was out for a season. Look at what Matt Flynn did this past Sunday against the Lions when the Packers decided to sit Aaron Rodgers. It’s not awful to have a backup QB who at least knows how to play the position. It wasn’t just the QB position though. The Colts essentially had no running game. Their drafts recently have been horrific. The O-Line has been terrible for a couple of years now. The defense is vastly undersized & simply not very good outside of Robert Mathis, Dwight Freeney & Pat Angerer. What’s somewhat amazing is how the Colts would have looked at #18 been playing. They probably win between 11-13 games which would again been good enough to win the South & potentially be a #1 or #2 seed in the AFC. Now the Colts face the Andrew Luck decision. It’ll be interesting to say the least.

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January 2, 2012 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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