Gregg Rosenthal's latest look at the AFC Playoff Picture tells the tale of a conference nearly locked down for postseason play.
Beyond Tom Brady, the field of passers is an amazing collection of humans who nobody saw coming in August: Brock Osweiler, AJ McCarron, Brandon Weeden, Alex Smith and Ryan Fitzpatrick.
If the Colts defy incredible odds to steal the AFC South away from Houston, it only grows more bizarre with Stephen Morris potentially logging a playoff start for Indy.
If the Texans take care of business, though, either Weeden or Brian Hoyer would play the wild-card round, leaving the long-lost Browns to ponder how two of their starting signal-callers from 2013 became postseason darlings. It's no less awkward in Cincinnati, where McCarron's significant wrist sprain means fans could be treated to a glorious taste of Keith Wenning in January.
For years, the AFC playoffs were anchored by the likes of Brady, Peyton Manning, Ben Roethlisberger, Philip Rivers and Joe Flacco. Not this time, though, unless Big Ben and the Steelers improbably flip-flop with the Jets in Week 17. We don't see that happening with the way Fitzpatrick is playing of late, guiding Gang Green on a five-game win streak that has New York entering January as a legitimate threat to mine deep into the postseason. Who?
While the NFC offers a collection of MVP-type arms in Cam Newton, Carson Palmer, Aaron Rodgers and Russell Wilson, the AFC is mere weeks away from selling us Osweiler-McCarron II.
It's not a complaint. Honestly, it's a beautiful time. We've watched the same cast of signal-callers seek glory one year after the next -- why not someone new? Wouldn't it be great to see a hard-working, all-in veteran like Fitzpatrick do the impossible?
Odds say it all boils down to Brady again, but the journey to Super Bowl 50 is dripping with weirdness in the AFC. We're on the cusp of a fantastical ride. Hang on tight.