NFL: AFC early season wrap

Four weeks have rolled on by in the NFL, close enough to a quarter of the season gone for us here at FTS to do a quarterly season review.

Injuries, surprise packets (both good and bad), hard luck stories and OT wins have littered the beginning to the season, and here is our take on how the season has started for the AFC. Scroll down to find your team, or read them all. Any feedback on how your team is going, is always appreciated.

AFC East: 

A very open division, however may not stay like this. The Jets began well but injuries and sudden form lapses have left them at 2-2 with an unlucky New England outfit, and a Buffalo Bills team that are a bit hard to judge.

New England Patriots (2-2): The Patriots are a much better side than their standing suggests, their losses were tight, and both games were seemingly in their grasp. Baltimore put together a spectacular drive late in their game last Sunday night to snatch the match, and Arizona’s road win against New England was only possible thanks to a missed Gostkowski field goal which left the Patriots two points shy of the win. They have the most productive offense in the league and they should be treated as a danger team come the winter months.

New York Jets (2-2): After I initially gave them a wrap earlier in the season, claiming the Jets would make the playoffs, it looked as though they would repay the favour. Then Darrelle Revis did his ACL (out for the year) and Santonio Holmes went down with a (potentially season ending) foot injury after their latest loss- a shut out at home to the San Francisco 49ers. I could write a whole piece on the Jets, and I probably will, but for now I’ll leave it at this: The New York Jets are in serious trouble.

Buffalo Bills (2-2): Another team on 2-2 in the AFC East, the Bills have been rather inconsistent- yet consistent. They beat the teams they were expected to- Kansas City and Cleveland, have lost both of their divisional games. The Patriots surged away from them in the last quarter last week, and the Jets (when they were looking okay) beat them in the first week. Unsure what to make of them, but they’re better than the also 2-2 Jets.

Miami Dolphins (1-3): Can’t get much unluckier than the Miami Dolphins so far this season. Two OT losses, one to the Jets and the other to the now 4-0 Cardinals, and coach Joe Philbin must be wondering what he did in a past life to deserve it. Ryan Tannehill is looking the goods as rookie QB, and with Reggie Bush patrolling the running game down in Florida, they’ll look to prove that they are the number two team in the AFC East. Signed Jabar Gaffney to add to their receiving stocks of Brian Hartline and Davone Bess. Jump on board the bandwagon.

AFC North:

Looks to be a good one this year, the Ravens are the stand-out outfit, but the Bengals are showing some heart. The ageing Steelers have started poorly, and the Browns need to find some consistency in their offense.

Baltimore Ravens (3-1): The Ravens have turned a team known for their defense into an all-round outfit. Joe Flacco is stamping his name as a great QB, and with support around him in Anquan Boldin, Torrey Smith, and dynamo running back Ray Rice, the Ravens are shaping up as potential Super Bowl candidates for the AFC. Ray Lewis and co. are still very solid in defense. Watch out!

Cincinnati Bengals (3-1): Bit of a surprise for mine. Second year QB Andy Dalton looks to be getting it done for them, and with the pick up of BenJarvus Green-Ellis from New England, they Bengals will have no hesitation in switching it up between the ground play and throwing the ball. The have only lot to Baltimore so far, and Dalton was kept quiet, but they have beaten Cleveland, Jacksonville and Washington. It’ll be interesting to see how they progress.

Pittsburgh Steelers (1-2): Had their bye this week. They have lost both road games but won their home opener at Heinz field. Pittsburgh are an interesting team, QB Ben Roethlisberger will keep doing his thing (has the 2nd best QB rating in the league), but their lack of running game (ranked 31st out of 32 teams) leaves a lot to be desired- Isaac Redman and Johnathan Dwyer are averaging less well less than three yards per carry. They get back Rashard Mendenhall from an knee injury this week, so expect them to be much more of a complete team.

Cleveland Browns (0-4): It’s shaping up to be another one of ‘those years’ at the Dawg Pound and Cleveland Browns stadium, and an 0-4 start means most likely another year without playoffs- which they haven’t featured in since 2002. Rookie Brandon Weeden is their 4th starting quarterback in three years, but looked very nice against Baltimore last Thursday. Trent Richardson also looks impressive, but needs to be given more of the ball. They’ll win soon.

AFC South:

The AFC South have been dormant for a few years now- Indianapolis were the powerhouse when they had Peyton Manning scrambling around in the pocket, but now it’s Houston’s turn to flex some muscle.

Houston Texans (4-0): It all seems to be falling into place for the Texans, they’ve won their first four games, and in convincing fashion. In fact, they rank second for average points scored, and it’s with great thanks to their running game- Ben Tate and Arian Foster are a dynamic duo. They’ve combined for 6 TDs- QB Matt Schaub for 7, and their offensive unit is looking good. Bradie James and Brian Cushing patrolling the seams as linebackers are also doing their job. Will challenge Baltimore in the AFC.

Indianapolis Colts (1-2): Another team who have had their bye early. Already looking a lot better than last year when they played out a 2-14 season after Peyton Manning’s injury. Andrew Luck is filling the hole nicely, throwing for 850 yards in his three games, as well as scrambling for 80 yards thus far. Has good support with Reggie Wayne and Donnie Avery out wide. Will have a losing season- just.

Jacksonville Jaguars (1-3): Not much to say about this organisation, they’re still a little bit irrelevant. Ranked last in the competition for points per game and yards per game (31st in pass yards), the only saving grace for their start to the year is running back Maurice Jones-Drew, and he very nearly didn’t start the season due to conflict with coach Mike Mularkey. Not looking good.

Tennessee Titans (1-3): An injury to young QB Jake Locker is just the thing the Titans didn’t need. Second stringer Matt Hasselbeck is a fine replacement, but in order to further Locker’s development into a franchise QB, for him to now need surgery is the worst result this early in the season. They have a leaky defense which has had the most points in the league scored against them- 151 in their four matches so far (37.8 per game). The year only gets harder for the Titans in the coming weeks. It’s a shame, RB Chris Johnson is now 27 and in the peak of his career.

AFC West: 

The Chargers and Broncos look to battle it out in the west, again, the Chiefs and Raider look to be the disappointments. Poor defense is what have let those teams down, whilst conversely the Chargers and Broncos have been solid in their D.

San Diego Chargers (3-1): The Chargers, to me, are a bit of a surprise packet. Sitting pretty on 3-1, Philip Rivers is completing 70% of his passes, and the acquisition of Jackie Battle from Kansas City is helping their run game. Line backer Shaun Phillips has 3.5 sacks to they year already, and their defense has only leaked 17 points a game (6th in the league). The Chargers could do some damage later in the year.

Denver Broncos (2-2): Peyton Manning has already thrown for over 1100 yards in the Broncos first four games (9th in the league), and it seems that he is earning the bucket of cash Denver threw at him. 8 TDs and nearly 100 completions so far, receivers Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker would be enjoying their new throw-savvy QB. In fact, Decker has nearly eclipsed his reception count from last year in the first four games. Their defense is 7th in the NFL for stopping yards per game, and having lost to heavyweights Atlanta and Houston, Bronco fans can sleep easy knowing that the 2-2 standing should turn into a winning season.

Oakland Raiders (1-3): Unfortunately for Raider Nation, this year might not be year- again. Carson Palmer and Darren McFadden make a great duo in the pass/receiving game, but unfortunately McFadden and the rushing offense is lacklustre, in fact, last in the league for rushing yards per game (60 ypg). Very average defense, and a poor start to the season (bar a home win against Pittsburgh). Raiders have the bye this week before facing Atlanta away. They could finish as bad as 5-11.

Kansas City Chiefs (1-3): Another team with a great offense on paper, but a poor defense. The Chiefs have let opposing teams score an average of 34 points against them in their first four games, and save for an OT win against New Orleans, they could be 0-4. Matt Cassel and Dwayne Bowe have combined for 3 TDs and 350 on the year so far, and with Jamaal Charles and Shaun Draughn making up the best rushing attack in the league, the Chiefs should improve across the rest of the year- however my early season prediction of them making the playoffs and taking out the west looks to be a bit off.

 

Look out in the next few days as Matt Walsh wraps up the NFC. You can find his Twitter, in the mean time. @MattWalshMedia

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