Taking Stock of AFC's Not-So-Super 7
Welcome back to the NFL Pregame Flyover, the only column that gets flexed out when better columns come along.
Before we gets to this week’s delectable buffet of games – and tell you which games are Probably digestible, which games are of Questionable taste, Doubtful taste, and which three games will give you food poisoning – let’s proceed to part two of our documentary “Lazy Teams That Haven’t Won a Super Bowl.”
First-time Super Bowl winner lurking in AFC?
Last week we looked at the seven NFC teams that have never won a Super Bowl and asked if this was their year to capture that elusive first title. This week we look at the seven AFC teams that have never won a ring and assess their odds of winning the Lombardi Trophy. Next week we’ll look at the NFL’s messianic devotion to the No. 7.
BILLS: Buffalo is 4-7 on the season and 1-4 in their last five games. In short, they’ve hit their midseason stride. The Bills haven’t reached the postseason since 1999, the longest playoff drought in the NFL. The last time they made the bonus section of the NFL schedule, they lost to the Titans in the Music City Miracle. Will their next playoff appearance invoke the creation of an uppercase nickname? A nickname that rolls off the tongue with consonance?
Odds they win the Super Bowl this year: The same as the “Buffalo Blood Bath” becoming the nickname for a Bills postseason victory.
BROWNS: Cleveland is 3-8, but they’re riding a one-game winning streak after converting eight Pittsburgh turnovers into a 20-14 victory last Sunday. It’s astounding that a team could force eight turnovers and still beat its opponent by only six points, but the Browns have been defying the odds throughout the Super Bowl era and exceptionalism has become their modus operandi.
Odds they win the Super Bowl this year: The same as Brandon Weeden feeling good about his long-term job security.
BENGALS: Cincinnati is 6-5 and has vaulted back into the playoff picture with three straight wins, starting with an impressive 31-13 victory over the Giants. This is the Bengals’ remaining schedule: at San Diego (Cincinnati’s final opportunity to see Norv Turner do something inexplicable in person); home against Dallas (a possible loss given the Cowboys’ commitment to being bipolar); away against Philadelphia (a win if they have any shot of making the playoffs); at Pittsburgh (who might be starting Kordell Stewart at quarterback by then); and at home against the Ravens (who are actually the Cleveland Browns and thus full of taint).
Odds they win the Super Bowl this year: Better than the other team from Ohio.
TITANS: The AFC South is the only division that has three teams (Titans, Jaguars, Texans) that have never won a Super Bowl. The AFC North has two (Bengals, Browns), as does the NFC South (Panthers, Falcons), NFC North (Vikings, Lions) and the NFC West (Seahawks, Cardinals). Each of the other divisions has one team that has been forsaken by skill and good fortune – AFC East (Bills), AFC West (Chargers), NFC East (Eagles).
Odds they win the Super Bowl this year: Wait, who were we talking about? Whatever, they won’t win the Super Bowl.
CHARGERS: San Diego is 4-7 and has lost its last three games. But the Chargers are a renowned December team, compiling a 23-3 record in the month under Philip Rivers.
Odds they win the Super Bowl this year: The same as the Super Bowl being held in December.
JAGUARS: Jacksonville is 2-9 and riding high on the crest of a one-game winning streak. If they win out, they could finish at 7-9, which would put them right in the thick of things in the 2010 NFC West.
Odds they win the Super Bowl this year: Pretty good, I guess. They just agreed to pay Jason Babin $1.6 million to play the last five games, so obviously they think this is their year.
TEXANS: Houston is 10-1, the best record in the AFC, and they just survived a hard-fought battle on Thanksgiving in which the Lions nearly won in overtime and the Texans quarterback was nearly neutered by Ndamukong Suh. Their only loss this year was at home to the Packers, a blowout that may give people reservations about tabbing the Texans as the team to beat in the AFC. Their own head coach can’t even bear to watch the end of their games, which may tell us something about the confidence he has in his squad.
Odds they win the Super Bowl this year: The same as JJ Watt winning NFL MVP.
The Weekly Best
Best 4th-and-29 conversion: Ray Rice.
Best summation of the Eagles’ woes: The Phillies have won a game more recently.
Best time to drop the Dolphins as your fantasy defense: Before they play Patriots this week.
Best time for Nike to release the Zoom Revis: This week, with Darrelle Revis on IR and the Jets on life support.
Best completion percentage in football: Belongs to the Niners’ backup quarterback Alex Smith (70.0).
Best time to ask Peyton Manning for an autograph: If you’re Jamaal Charles and Dwayne Bowe, it’s following a Chiefs loss to the Broncos.
Best summation of Tim Tebow’s throwing woes: “He's too inconsistent. He's like a golfer who can't hit a two-foot putt to save his life, then turns around and sinks a 25-footer,” says NFL.com senior analyst Gil Brandt.
Best way for Tebow to extend his career: Change positions, Brandt said.
Best examples of other highly drafted players who successfully switched positions: Billy Cannon and Todd Christensen.
Best believe it: I just devoted three lines to Tim Tebow.
Best time to put up the Christmas tree: Sunday night during the Eagles/Cowboys game.
Best cue up the Kumbaya: Aaron Rodgers says he and Jermichael Finley are simpatico again.
Probable, Questionable, Doubtful and Out
Just as the NFL puts out an injury report on the likelihood that certain players will suit up each week (Probable, Questionable, Doubtful or Out), we rate the NFL schedule on the likelihood that games will be worth watching. Because let's face it, you can't watch them all.
Probable Game of the Week: Seahawks at Bears.
Richard Sherman and Brandon Browner are the best cornerback tandem in the NFL, but the outsized duo apparently suffer from attention deficit disorder because both are facing four-game suspensions for using Adderrall without a prescription. A USA Today story said Sherman had a well-crafted excuse for why he had ingested Adderall. He said a teammate who had a prescription for the drug had crushed it up and put it in a drink, which Sherman inadvertently drank. Sherman later told a different reporter that he’d never ingested Adderrall at all.
Meanwhile Browner claims protocol was not followed during his drug test, and that his urine was improperly poured from one container into another.
(Other games receiving votes: Vikings at Packers; Bucs at Broncos.)
Questionable Game of the Week: Patriots at Dolphins.
The Dolphins have been fading faster than Mitt Romney’s post-election spray-on tan. They don’t seem interested in maintaining the impression that they are a legitimate playoff team. Beating a Seahawks team that had to travel to Miami via the Arctic Circle? Not that impressive.
Now the Dolphins host the Patriots and then travel to San Francisco. By the time they return to host Jacksonville in three weeks – a game that in past years would have caused the entire state of Florida to quiver with anticipation – the Dolphins will be 5-8.
Remember when the Dolphins completed the only perfect season in the Super Bowl era? Me neither, I wasn’t born yet.
(Other games receiving votes: Texans at Titans; Colts at Lions; Bengals at Chargers; Philadelphia at Dallas.)
Doubtful Game of the Week: Steelers at Ravens.
If the season ended today, the 6-5 Steelers would make the playoffs as the sixth seed in the AFC. Alas, the regular season has to keep going for several more weeks, a dark time in which the Steelers have to watch Charlie Batch try to make forward passes with a right arm that is obviously broken. Seriously, he has a busted wing; no healthy quarterback throws a ball like that. Charlie, we admire your willingness to play through pain, but discretion is the better part of valor. Quit now before you hurt someone in the first row.
The Steelers have now lost back-to-back games for the first time in almost three years, and many Pittsburgh fans are pessimistic about this team making the playoffs. But even when the Steelers lose to the Ravens this week (a given), they’ll still hold the sixth seed if the Bengals lose in San Diego, which is entirely possible. The AFC is such a potpourri of mediocre teams that Pittsburgh can probably absorb a four-game losing streak and still make the playoffs.
Out Games of the Week: Jaguars at Bills; Panthers at Chiefs; and Browns at Raiders.
All three of these games deserve equal treatment as the out game of the week. And equal treatment they shall receive: the silent treatment.