Tuesday, November 8, 2011

its over when its over ...

"Its over when it's over,
Ain't it baby, ain't it.
Rips ya like a dagger,
Can't it baby, can't it?

Wish we could do it over,
Dammit baby, dammit.
We had it in the air,
But we just couldn't land it ..."

-- "Over When Its Over" by Eric Church.

I'm going to open this week's "not even three Benadryl and two bottles of merlot can get me to fall asleep tonight!" post by making a blanket statement about the 2011 NFL season.  I am sure some people will disagree with what I am about to say, and that's cool.  If your life depended on agreeing with everything I type, say, or believe, well, you'd be up sh*ts creek with a turd for a paddle half the time.  Having said that, here goes:

This is the WORST the AFC has been since the 1989 season ... and this year's AFC might be worse than that horrendous 1989 collection of teams.

If you want to go Google search the 1989 NFL standings, feel free.  They're so horrific on the AFC side of the ledger, I won't post them ... but I will note a few "whoa!" facts for you up front:

1. Only one AFC team won more than 9 games.  No really -- there were 14 teams in the conference at that time, and only ONE of them managed to top 9 wins -- the eventual AFC Champion broncos.

2. The other four playoff teams?  All had exactly nine wins.  And because Nick Lowery was the most worthless "clutch" kicker ever, the Browns earned the two seed because they tied the Chiefs, instead of losing to them*.

(*: you think this year's AFC West is awful?  The 1989 AFC Central finished looking like this:

Cleveland 9-6-1
Houston 9-7-0
Pittsburgh 9-7-0
Cincinnati 8-8-0.

And had the Bengals won the regular season finale at Minnesota, they'd have hosted the Oilers in the wildcard game.  Instead, the Oilers found a way to lose to a Steelers team we've heard a lot about this year -- Dick Haley's Steelers that got outscored 94-10 to open their season ... and ended it a botched extra point away from traveling to Cleveland for the AFC Title Game!)

3. A smart person would think, seeing the lack of dominant teams (or even solid teams) the AFC fielded that year, that the NFC beat up on the AFC.  Quite the opposite -- only three AFC teams finished with ten or more losses (the clueless Pats, the hopeless Chargers (who cost the Chiefs not just a playoff berth, but a home playoff game, by winning at Arrowhead in week 15) ... and your Joe Walton led Jets.)  Every other AFC team finished at 8 wins or better, save for Seattle ... who went 7-9, a year after winning the AFC West at 9-7.  (And entered week 16 with a chance to finish .500).

4. Let that sink in again -- 10 of the 14 AFC teams entered the final week of the season mathematically alive for a playoff berth.  And an incredible 9 -- 9! -- teams entered week 15 still mathematically alive to WIN THEIR DIVISION!

I mention this ... because I truly believe this year's AFC might be worse.

Let me ask you this: would you take ANY AFC team, on a neutral field, right now over the Packers?  Would you take ANY AFC team, on a neutral field, right now over the 49ers?  Would you take ANY AFC team, on a neutral field, right now over the Giants, Lions, Saints, Falcons, or Bears?

(My answer: no to Green Bay, no to San Fran, maybe against the Giants and Lions and Bears (the Ravens), yes to Atlanta and New Orleans (the Ravens, and possibly the Texans, who nearly beat New Orleans at the Dome two months ago.)  Other than that, nope.)

Was Sunday's loss to Miami bad?  Yes.  It was awful.  It was worse than awful.

But was it really unexpected?

At this moment in the AFC, you have three teams that are essentially out of it -- the winless Colts, hapless Dolphins, and hopeless Jaguars.  And yet ... the Colts nearly beat Pittsburgh and the Chiefs, the Dolphins nearly beat San Diego, the Giants, the Texans, and did beat the Chiefs, and the Jaguars demolished the best the AFC has to offer at this point (the Ravens).

For those who argue a loss to Miami roo-eened the season, please, look at the standings.  The AFC is awful folks.  It's awful.

You have a three way tie in the AFC East and West for first place ... and how'd we get to that point?  By the Chargers dropping three straight, the Bills and Pats and raiders dropping two straight, and the Chiefs getting pummeled at home by a winless Dolphins team.  Would you take ANY team in the East or West on a neutral field right now against a NFC power, or even middling team like the Cowboys or Eagles?

Let's look at this going forward.  The only reasonable assumption anyone can make about the AFC, right now, is that if the Houston Texans do not win the AFC South, Gary Kubiak should not only be fired, Bob McNair should insist Kubiak undergo tests to confirm he's not mentally retarded.  The Texans are essentially three up on the Titans with the tiebreaker, with seven to go (they have their bye next week).  If you can't hold on when you still have three divisional games, and you're up three?  And those divisional games are at winless Indy, at clueless Jacksonville, and fading-fast Tennessee at home, who you already tuned 41-7 in their place?  Heads should roll.

Everything else?  Who would you bet on?

Here's where we're at, and what's left, division by division.  If you can figure how it's gonna play out, you're far smarter than me.  (Note: I am assuming the Dolphins, Jaguars, and Colts are done-zo ... although as wacky as this sounds, the Jaguars might hold the key on December 5th to who wins the AFC West ...)

(Team: Overall / Division / Conference.  Remaining Schedule.)
(Source: espn.com/nfl/standings; espn.com/nfl/schedules)

AFC East:

Patriots: 5-3 / 2-1 / 4-2.  at Jets (SNF) / vs Chiefs (MNF) / at Eagles / vs Colts / at Redskins / at broncos / vs Dolphins / vs Bills.
Jets: 5-3 / 2-1 / 4-3.  vs Patriots (SNF) / at broncos (TNF) / vs Bills / at Redskins / vs Chiefs / at Eagles / vs Giants / at Dolphins.
Bills: 5-3 / 1-1 / 3-2.  at Cowboys / at Dolphins / at Jets / vs Titans / at Chargers / vs Dolphins / vs broncos / at Patriots.

AFC North:
Bengals: 6-2 / 1-0 / 5-1.  vs Steelers / at Ravens / vs Browns / at Steelers / vs Texans / at Rams / vs Cardinals / vs Ravens.
Ravens: 6-2 / 2-0 / 4-2.  at Seahawks / vs Bengals / vs 49ers (TNF) / at Browns / vs Colts / at Chargers (SNF) / vs Browns / at Bengals.
Steelers: 6-3 / 0-2 / 4-3.  at Bengals / bye / at Chiefs (SNF) / vs Bengals / vs Browns (TNF) / at 49ers (MNF) / vs Rams / at Browns.
Browns: 3-5 / 0-1 / 2-4.  vs Rams / vs Jaguars / at Bengals / vs Ravens / at Steelers (TNF) / at Cardinals / at Ravens / vs Steelers.

AFC South:
Texans: 6-3 / 3-0 / 6-2.  at Bucs / bye / at Jaguars / vs Falcons / at Bengals / vs Panthers / at Colts (TNF) / vs Titans.
Titans: 4-4 / 1-2 / 4-4.  at Panthers / at Falcons / vs Bucs / at Bills / vs Saints / at Colts / vs Jaguars / at Texans.

AFC West:
Chiefs: 4-4 / 2-1 / 3-3.  vs broncos / at Patriots (MNF) / vs Steelers (SNF) / at Bears / at Jets / vs Packers / vs raiders / at broncos.
Chargers: 4-4 / 2-1 / 3-3.  vs raiders (TNF) / at Bears / vs broncos / at Jaguars (MNF) / vs Bills / vs Ravens (SNF) / at Lions / at raiders.
raiders: 4-4 / 1-2 / 4-4.  at Chargers (TNF) / at Vikings / vs Bears / at Dolphins / at Packers / vs Lions / at Chiefs / vs Chargers.
broncos: 3-5 / 1-2 / 3-3.  at Chiefs / vs Jets (TNF) / at Chargers / at Vikings / vs Bears / vs Patriots / at Bills / vs Chiefs.

I'll have my thoughts on what I think might possibly happen ... manana ...

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