AFC is Wide Open Among At Least 5 Teams

Tuesday night, the Tennessee Titans dismantled the Buffalo Bills, 42-16. With both Buffalo and Kansas City losing in Week 5, Tennessee and Pittsburgh remain the only unbeaten teams in the AFC.

Coming into the season, odds and experts deemed the AFC a two-team race between the Chiefs and Ravens — claiming the AFC is, again, the weaker conference. Neither of these things is true. In the NFC, it’s Green Bay and Russell Wilson miraculously keeping an average Seattle roster unbeaten. The AFC is wide open in what projects to be a tight 17-week seeding race.

FanDuel still lists the Chiefs and Ravens as AFC favorites, but both have struggled to separate from the pack this season. 

As I argued Sunday, Kansas City hasn’t been very good. Aside from the win over Baltimore, the defending champs have looked average, poor on defense, and beatable in every contest.

The Ravens have the conference’s best roster. Yet, questions remain if the offense can rally back if they fall behind by double-digits.

Both the Steelers and Titans can win the AFC this season. Pittsburgh has the best defense in the NFL. Ben Roethlisberger found a new toy in Chase Claypool, a legit touchdown machine. At +750, FanDuel lists the Steelers with the third-best odds.

Even before its dominant, eye-opening win over Buffalo, Tennessee was overlooked. This same roster made the AFC Championship Game a season ago, beat the Ravens, and nearly knocked off Patrick Mahomes.

The Titans control the clock, Derrick Henry is a freak, Mike Vrabel can coach, and the defense makes plays. Of course, everything ultimately comes down to Ryan Tannehill. And while he’s not flashy like Mahomes, Lamar Jackson, and Josh Allen, he is an above-average QB with the Titans. In this system, that’s all that’s required.

However, no one should overreact to the Bills’ loss. Josh Allen is Ben Roethlisberger eight years ago — with a bigger arm.

Oddly, the concern in Buffalo is on defense. A season ago, Buffalo’s defense was hellacious. This year, it is middle of the road in yards and points allowed.

Still, at +950, the Bills have great upside.

The Steelers, Titans, Ravens, Chiefs, and Bills are the AFC’s best teams right now. That list alone fills each division and a Wild Card (Ravens or Steelers). Additionally, there are several other teams that are not far off, including the 4-1 Browns.

Cleveland’s run game is on cheat codes. Odell Beckham Jr. is finally clicking with Baker Mayfield. Defensively, the Browns have players. Give this team a puncher’s chance against anyone.

Cleveland is, to use Mayfield’s word, “dangerous.”

Las Vegas is going to compete for the AFC West from now until Week 17. The Raiders already have statement wins over the Chiefs and Saints. Kansas City could not stop Vegas’ offense. More alarmingly, it could not block the Raiders’ pass rush. Vegas employs a ton of talent among the skill positions and a top-notch offensive line.

Are we counting out New England? Cam Newton is the ideal fit with the Patriots’ defense-first, run-second, pass-third agenda. Regardless of the matchup, New England also wins the coaching advantage.

The Colts and Chargers are dark horses. At 1-4, the Chargers might not make the playoffs. However, Justin Herbert is a rock star. In three of his first four career starts, he has gone toe-to-toe with Mahomes, Brady, and Brees. He may have outplayed all of them.

Indianapolis has a QB problem in Philip Rivers, but the defense neutralizes this issue and presents a tough matchup for top offensive teams. 

The 2020 AFC is loaded with Super Bowl-caliber teams. 

When asked to select the top team, OutKick readers debated between the Chiefs and Steelers.

My take:

Best team now: Steelers

Best bet: Bills, +950.

Pick: Ravens

Written by Bobby Burack

Bobby Burack covers media, politics, and sports at OutKick.

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