For football fans, the end seems fast approaching. As week 15 nears, the teams that will make a playoff appearance are beginning to separate from the rest of the pack. Here are the predictions for the AFC playoff picture:
1. Denver Broncos – The Broncos have dominated the NFL since week one. Led by veteran quarterback Peyton Manning, the Broncos offense has been seemingly unstoppable. They are ranked first in passing yards and 13th in rushing yards, thanks to the down-field running of Knowshon Moreno. The Broncos made a very smart trade by picking up former Patriot wide receiver Wes Welker, who has been a huge help for the offense with 68 receptions for 717 yards and nine touchdowns on the season.
2. Kansas City Chiefs – After going 2-14 last year, new head coach Andy Reid has turned this team into a well oiled, winning machine. The offense is led by star running back Jamaal Charles, who has run for 1,011 yards on 219 attempts and has scored nine touchdowns during the season so far. Quarterback Alex Smith holds his own with 2,736 yards and 16 touchdowns.
3. New England Patriots – Always a strong contender in the AFC, the Patriots’ late season push has brought them to the forefront of the playoff picture. Quarterback Tom Brady is having a very strong season, averaging 255 yards per game, which ranks him 10th in the NFL. The Patriot defense is also doing very well, allowing only 224 passing yards per game. However, they are giving up almost 140 yards rushing per game.
4. Cincinnati Bengals – The Bengals have been a contender all year thanks to the incredible play by their defense, which has allowed only 213 yards passing and 101 yards rushing per game this season. This ferocious defense is led by linebacker Vontaze Burfict. Burfict has accumulated 131 tackles this season, including one sack. The star on the offensive side is wide receiver A.J. Green, who has 1,103 yards receiving and seven touchdowns on the season.
5. Indianapolis Colts – Quarterback Andrew Luck looks to lead his Colts to a Super Bowl championship this year, now that he has gotten over the metaphorical hump of a rookie season. A weak spot for the Colts seems to be the running game, as they recently benched running back Trent Richardson since he has not shown the results that this team is looking for. Replacement running back Donald Brown has not shown much promise in his first start, with only 54 yards rushing on 14 carries. Both the offense and defense need to tighten up if they want to still be playing at New Year’s.
6. Baltimore Ravens – The defending Super Bowl champs have not had the season they were hoping for. With a 6-6 record, the Ravens are trying to hold on to the last playoff spot, but the Miami Dolphins are right at their heels. At this point one slip-up could mean a short end to their season. This team relies heavily on its defense, which ranks 12th in passing yards allowed per game and sixth in rushing yards allowed. The offensive side is very one-dimensional. Since the rushing game ranks third worst in the league, most of the pressure sits on former Super Bowl MVP quarterback Joe Flacco.