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The AFC is wide open

The Broncos defence got them through to Super Bowl 50, but Manning also kept possession well. (AP Photo/Jack Dempsey)
Roar Guru
24th September, 2014
12

When the season began just a couple of weeks ago, the consensus among NFL pundits was that only two teams could win the American Football Conference (AFC).

They were the defending champion Denver Broncos and the team they beat in the championship game in January, the New England Patriots.

That theory can now be thrown out the window.

There are now six teams that can progress to the Super Bowl.

Denver and New England are both 2-1 and still well in contention. The Broncos, who suffered their first loss of the season this past weekend in overtime to Seattle, the same team that beat them in the Super Bowl, have shown that their offence will again be a force to be reckoned with.

Led by hall of fame quarterback Peyton Manning, Denver won their opening two games at home against the Colts and Chiefs before pushing the Seahawks and their league leading defence all the way on the road. The return of Wes Welker from a drug suspension provided another option for Manning, which will be vital in the run to the playoffs.

After a shock loss in Week 1 to the Miami Dolphins, the Patriots made light work of the Vikings and Raiders, teams they really should beat. The defence set the tone for these victories, giving up seven and nine points in each respective games.

Expect the Patriots offense to get better and better the longer this season goes. Head coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady have been around long enough to know when they need to be playing at their best.

Out West, the San Diego Chargers are 2-1, with their loss coming in Week 1 to the undefeated Arizona Cardinals by one point. Their best game of the three was undoubtedly the Week 2 win over the Super Bowl champion Seahawks, in which they kept the ball for forty two minutes.

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Offense is undoubtedly their strength, quarterback Philip Rivers has wideout Keenan Allen and tight end Antonio Gates among his targets. The loss of running back Danny Woodhead for the year with an ankle injury will hurt the run game.

The AFC North division has three legitimate contenders. The division leading Cincinnati Bengals (3-0) are the hottest team in the entire NFL right now. On both sides of the ball the Bengals are blowing the opposition away.

Their offense, led by Andy Dalton, is second in the league in points scored, while the defence is only conceding an average of eleven points per game, easily the best in the entire NFL.

The big question on the Bengals and Dalton in particular will be the ability to perform in the playoffs.

The 2012 Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens (2-1) are getting back to that form in spite of the drama surrounding Ray Rice. Wide receiver Steve Smith has come across from the Carolina Panthers and looked like a veteran Ravens player.

Losing tight end Dennis Pitta to a hip injury for the remainder of the season will hurt them no doubt, however the addition of Owen Daniels will cover that. Daniels caught two touchdown passes in the Ravens Week 2 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Despite losing that game to the Ravens, the Steelers are right in contention. A speedy offence led by quarterback Ben Roethlisberger which has options at wide receiver such as Antonio Brown and a running back duo of Le’Veon Bell and LaGarrette Blount is coupled with the usual steel curtain defence.

They jumped into contention following a 37-19 win over the highly fancied Panthers in Week 3, in which Bell and Blount combined for 265 yards rushing and a touchdown.

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