By Brian Willwerth
A quick overview of the division races in the AFC with five games remaining…
The Patriots are in great shape. They have a two-game lead over the Jets, and own the tiebreaker by virtue of beating New York twice already. Their next two games are against the winless Colts and the subpar Redskins. It looks more and more like there will be another home playoff game in Foxboro in January.
The Jets came up with a much-needed win over the Bills last Sunday to stay in the playoff hunt. Buffalo, after getting off to such a hot start, has dropped four straight and now sits at 5-6.
This is the best division in football. The Ravens and Steelers are tied atop the division at [8-3] records, but Baltimore has the edge because it has beaten Pittsburgh twice. What makes the North so intriguing is the surprising play of the Bengals. They’re [7-4], just one game out of first place. But they’ve already lost to both Pittsburgh and Baltimore once, so the Bengals would have to beat those teams the second time around to have any shot at the division title. Still, it is very possible that both wild cards could come from the North.
The Texans are [8-3], riding a five-game winning streak, and have one of the best defenses in the league. But who’s going to play quarterback for them the rest of the way? Matt Schaub and Matt Leinart are both done for the year with injuries. Right now T.J. Yates is the man, but you’d have to think Houston’s going to pick someone up for the stretch run. Tennessee is in the hunt at [6-5], and if Chris Johnson keeps running like he did Sunday against the Buccaneers, watch out.
While the North may be the best division in football, the West may be the most interesting to watch down the stretch. And it’s all because of one guy: Tim Tebow. People can say what they want, but he’s [5-1] as a starter. As much hype as there is surrounding Tebow, people tend to overlook the fact that the Raiders have a one-game lead over Denver, and are coming off a big win at home against the Bears. Oakland and Denver split the head-to-head matchups during the season.
So who is the best team in the AFC? Take your pick. There is a four-way tie for the top spot between the Pats, Ravens, Steelers and Texans. We may not know who gets the byes until the final weekend.