200 Miles From the Citi

October 25, 2010 10:35 PM

Six Yards Of Separation


It's hard to measure just how good teams are unless they play one another head-to-head.

And even then you sometimes don't get an accurate reading - look at the way the Jets played in their season opener against Baltimore.

That night the Jets clearly did not look like the better team....but the Ravens haven't proven themselves to be that much better since that game.

So here's a look at some of the top teams in the AFC...and how they fit together in a variation of the "Six Degrees of Separation" idea.

The New York Jets have been excellent in wins over the Patriots, Bills, Dolphins, Vikings, and Broncos (well, not quite excellent in Denver, but they won), but their one loss stands out because of how terrible their offense was.  They couldn't move the ball, they had an entirely different game was almost like they were intimidated by the reputation of their opponents....

The Baltimore Ravens, who after winning that opening game 10-9, couldn't manage more than 10 points again in a loss to the Bengals.  They beat the Broncos, Steelers, Bills (barely), and Browns, but haven't really had an exclamation-point type of win.  Their highest-profile game, other than the season-opening Monday night win over the Jets, might have been their disappointing overtime loss to....

The New England Patriots, who opened their season with a two-touchdown win over Cincinnati, before a two-touchdown loss to the Jets.  The Patriots played a less-than-inspiring game in their win over Baltimore, and followed that up with a narrow win in San Diego.  They also have two division wins - an 8-point win over Buffalo, and their most impressive effort on the young season - a 41-14 blowout of...

The Miami Dolphins, who are 3-3.  They lost to the Jets and Patriots, and were impressive defensively in beating the Bills, Vikings, and, in overtime, the Packers.  They probably should be 4-2 right now, if not for a hard-luck loss in which the officiating was a factor on Sunday (image, upper left) against...

The Pittsburgh Steelers, who more than weathered the season-opening suspension of quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, going 3-1 without him and 2-0 since his return.  They started their season with an overtime win over Atlanta, and also beat Tampa Bay, Cleveland, and Miami.  They lost to Baltimore, another AFC contender, but had a solid win over....

The Tennessee Titans, who lead the AFC South with a 5-2 record.  The Titans have beaten Oakland, the Giants, the Cowboys, Jaguars, and Eagles, but you are given pause when you look at their accomplishments because one of their losses came at home to the Denver Broncos, the same team that is coming off a 59-14 thrashing at the hands of the Raiders, and looked terrible in an ugly win by....

The New York Jets.  And there you go.  The circle completes, and all of the contenders in the AFC have played a lot of the same opponents, including one another...and there really aren't a whole lot of answers to be had.

Logically, the Jets beat the Broncos, who beat the Titans, but does that mean the Jets would beat the Titans if they faced one another?  It's not that clear-cut.

The more realistic version is that the Jets beat the Patriots, who beat the Bengals handily, which would lead you to believe the Jets should have an easy time of it with Cincinnati on Thanksgiving night. But the Bengals also beat the Ravens pretty soundly, and the Ravens kind of had their way with the Jets' offense, so does that mean the Bengals will kill the Jets?

There are a lot of questions to be sorted out among the contenders in the AFC, and there are sure to be a couple of more teams worth talking about.  The Chiefs are the team to beat in the West, the Colts are only a half-game behind the Titans (so are the Texans), and the other teams have already shown they can be spoilers in any given week.

If there's anything this "Six Yards Of Separation" game has shown us, it's this: There really isn't much separating the top teams in the conference.

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