On the heels of a great Packers win over New Orleans 42-34, we are about to talk about the other conference?? Yes we are!! We did the NFC side of the ledger already and it’s time to pack what we’ve studied and written about throughout this tense summer. Last year, our crystal ball was a bit hazy but we became undone by a couple of upsets. We had the Baltimore Ravens facing the New England Patriots last summer but they each were knocked off in the divisional round before the championship game. Alright…we have some new D Cell batteries (do they still make those?) for my crystal ball and we’re going in. Who will win the prestigious Lamar S Hunt trophy and represent the AFC in Super Bowl XVLI??
Our choices to make the AFC Championship race are as follows:
1. New York – AFC East Champs w/ homefield advantage throughout playoffs.
2. Kansas City Chiefs – AFC West Champs w/second seed in the playoffs. If the Jets stumble in the divisional round, Chiefs would host the AFC Championship Game.
3. Baltimore Ravens – AFC North Champs. Will participate in the wildcard round and can only host the AFC Championship if #3 seed and lower meet. Will host the 6th seed wildcard weekend.
4. Houston Texans – AFC South Champs. Will participate in the wildcard round and can only host the AFC Championship if # 4 seed and lower meet. Will host the 5th seed wildcard weekend.
5. New England Patriots – The top record of non divisional winners and will face the 4th seeded team on the road during Wildcard weekend. Could only host the AFC Championship if #5 and #6 teams were to meet. (Has never happened)
6. San Diego Chargers – The second best record of non divisional winners and will face the #3 seeded team on the road during Wildcard weekend. Cannot host playoff game no matter what.
The regular season is over and the vanquished turn their attention toward the draft and other improvement methods, the big boys of the conference decide it’s championship. Wildcard weekend would have the brakes halt the Charger season in Baltimore. The Ravens battle hardened group would stifle Phillip Rivers and Ryan Matthews in the cold of the Northeast. This would bring about the end of the Chargers season and quite possible the tenure of San Diego coach Norv Turner. The Patriots would be down in Houston to take on the upstart Texans. Tom Brady would be too much for the young Texans and would win a shootout. It would be the second time Brady had it out in that stadium having won Super Bowl XXXVIII over Carolina there.
Having gone the wildcard route two times before, they proved themselves formidable by making the AFC Championship twice. For the first time ever the Jets would be enjoying home field advantage. With two weeks off before the divisional tilt, the team would finally come into the playoffs healthy. A raucous Meadowlands crowd and a fierce defense greet Tom Brady and the Patriots offense and dominate from the start. In a game that would mimic their 2010 playoff outing, stellar play by the Jets corners on the slow Patriot receivers. That crowd and that defense at home would be enough to slow Brady down, however Mark Sanchez would have his best playoff game to date and the Jets pull away in a strong win 30-17. Plaxico Burress would be the receiver the Patriots would have a hard time stopping.
In the other divisional round the Chiefs would host the Baltimore Ravens for the second straight year. With four former head coaches amongst their staff, Kansas City would be well schooled with what to do. This time the Chiefs come into the game with Jonathon Baldwin and Steve Breaston to go with Dewayne Bowe to give KC three big receivers. This game would be hard hitting like the 2010 playoff game but the Chiefs were taught by these same Ravens, the difference between regular season and playoff intensity. So they would pay them back in kind, hit for hit. The running attack of Jamaal Charles and Thomas Jones would be solid enough. The Ravens secondary would not holdup as Matt Cassel would pass the Chiefs to a solid win 31-14 win. The underrated Chiefs defense would get to Joe Flacco with Tamba Hali and pass rush specialist Allen Bailey, the physical specimen drafted out of Miami.
The race for the Lamar S Hunt trophy, emblematic of achievment in the American Football Conference, would come down to these two old AFL antagonists. The New York Jets would represent the AFC in Super Bowl XVLI after a 24-14 win in the chilly confines of the Meadowlands which would send them off in a ticker tape style similar to when the Giants beat the Redskins in 1986. Rex Ryan and Mark Sanchez come through.