Powers of the AFC
Powers of the AFC | Chris Schisler | July 12, 2013
Training camps are around the corner. The arms race of the offseason is nearly over and teams are about as equipped as they will be for week 1. It is time to discuss how the AFC will shape out. When I look at the AFC there are three teams I feel are legitimate Super Bowl contenders. These teams are the defending Champion Baltimore Ravens, the New England Patriots and the Denver Broncos.
The Baltimore Ravens have to be considered the power of the conference. They won in Denver and in New England to get to the Super Bowl; and have a much more solid roster coming into their title defense. The Ravens are not only the best team in the conference but they match up well against the other two powers in the AFC. Think about it. The Patriots struggle against teams who collapse Brady’s pocket bringing only a 4-5 man rush. The Ravens can bother Brady without sending 6 or more blitzers. The Patriots also struggle against offenses that punch them in the mouth. The physicality of the Ravens running attack will give New England fits. If you did not notice the Ravens had no problem throwing the football against the Patriots. With a slow group of linebackers and inconsistent play of the safeties the middle of the field will be wide open for Flacco. The Broncos secondary is just as suspect as it was in the playoff game. As taboo as it is to criticize the living legend that is Champ Bailey, we must admit he got burnt like toast in the playoff game against Baltimore. Bailey is not the man he used to be and he is the leader of a mediocre secondary. While the Broncos have a good front seven the secondary will be carved up by Flacco. The Broncos front seven was better last year with Dumervil helping Von Miller and they still barely got to Joe. The Ravens have retooled their roster and now are the best team in the AFC. They also match up well against the other AFC powers.
The Denver Broncos are second in the hierarchy of the conference. Peyton Manning, having another season under his belt after injury, will assume more of his usual greatness. The Broncos have the best group of receiving talent in the AFC. Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker are the best one two punch other than maybe Atlanta’s Roddy White and Julio Jones duo. Wes Welker is a bit overrated but he will be successful in the Broncos offense. The running game by committee will be good enough. The defense is good not great. As mentioned before I would be hesitant to trust the Denver secondary.
The New England Patriots have had a rough offseason. This has misguided people into believing they will fall from their status as one of the perennial top AFC teams. The offense will be fine. Hernandez was an important player but let’s not overdo it. Tom Brady has won with less talent around him then he has now. The defense is young and it will improve this year. Last season it was opportunistic and good in the secondary. The Patriots defense may not be stingy enough to be anything but a bend don’t break defense; but they don’t give up a lot of points and they create turnovers.
The Patriots and Broncos have one advantage over the Baltimore Ravens. Their respective divisions are easy to win. The Broncos and Patriots are good teams who don’t need help to be good. You give them the AFC East and the AFC West though and they will likely get the top seeds in the postseason. The Ravens though have proven they can win in both Denver and New England. The road may be tougher for the Ravens but they are the best team.
The 2013 Ravens defense will put last year’s squad to shame. It is widely forgotten how abysmal the 2012 Ravens defense was at times last season. Joe Flacco has proven that he can carry a team to the Super Bowl championship. This season Joe will not have to make up for the defenses slack. The 2013 Ravens defense will be an aggressive sack producing unit. The secondary will be even better than it was the year before. The Ravens have three starting corners in Ladarius Webb, Jimmy Smith and Corey Graham, a great problem to have. Any time you have a great pass rush and a great secondary you have a great defense.
The Ravens had been knocking on the door in the AFC for 5 seasons. Now they have blasted through the door and stand on top of the conference. The road to the Super Bowl may be hardest for the Baltimore Ravens but they are the conference’s best team. Last season the Ravens were not given a chance to win in Denver. They shocked the world. Last season the Ravens were not expected to beat Tom Brady in New England. The Ravens won convincingly. The world can bet against the Baltimore Ravens- this just feeds into the “us against the world” mindset they thrive under. The Ravens are the defending champions… I see nobody that can knock off the champions on their best day.