When looking at the AFC wild-card chase, the famous line from Dumb and Dumber comes to mind.
Your team might have anywhere between four and six wins, and you can start to get excited.
Yes, Lloyd. Yes we are.
The favorites have flaws. The underdogs have easy schedules. (Of course, there's also a reason that they're 4-6 in the first place.)
Let's examine the insanity. Here's a breakdown of the teams in the running.
Pittsburgh Steelers (6-4)
Pittsburgh has a problem: The Steelers can't complete the forward pass. Byron Leftwich was wretched in the loss to the Baltimore Ravens. He was clearly injured, with the Ravens treating his body like it was a rag doll. Yet Steelers coach Mike Tomlin didn't remove Leftwich from the game. It was stunning.
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I believe the genius of Ben Roethlisberger was that he masked the Steelers' many injures and areas of deficiency. Pittsburgh can run with authority. With the exception of what happened Sunday night, they are well-coached. But with no real quarterback until Big Ben comes back, road games against the Ravens and Dallas Cowboys (and even home games against the San Diego Chargers and Cincinnati Bengals) will be dog fights.
Indianapolis Colts (6-4)
Indianapolis has a relatively tough schedule, facing the Houston Texans twice in the final three weeks of the regular season. But I believe in Andrew Luck too much. He's too good and too focused. I think the Colts win four more games (against the Bills, Lions, Titans and Chiefs) and reach the magic number of 10.
Cincinnati Bengals (5-5)
"We lost to freaking Cleveland," he lamented.
The Bengals are young, but talented and well-coached, and have expert coordinators in Mike Zimmer (defense) and Jay Gruden (offense). Cincy's pass rush is strong. Rookie Vontaze Burfict and the linebackers have exceeded expectations. Leon Hall is solid. Terence Newman, having been reunited with Zimmer, is drinking from the fountain of youth. And ever since Marvin Lewis challenged Andy Dalton to be a better leader, the quarterback has been the epitome of toughness. Green, meanwhile, is the best receiver in the NFL this year.
Cincy has the Oakland Raiders and San Diego Chargers coming up next, after which the Bengals should be 7-5. Then they should beat the Dallas Cowboys and embarrassing Philadelphia Eagles (on the road) before taking the aforementioned trip to Pittsburgh and hosting the Ravens.
San Diego Chargers (4-6)
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When our old pal Lloyd said there was a chance, he wasn't factoring Norv into the equation.
Tennessee Titans (4-6)
I loved what I saw from Mike Munchak's team against the Dolphins in Week 10. The Titans humiliated Miami one week after being destroyed by the Chicago Bears and dressed down by owner Bud Adams. When I talked to Munchak last week on SiriusXM NFL Radio, he stressed the toughness and togetherness of his team.
New York Jets (4-6)
The good news for the Jets is that they have a favorable schedule down the stretch. They have the New England Patriots (sans Rob Gronkowski) on Thanksgiving. Then the offensively challenged Cardinals come to town before the Jets visit the Jaguars and Titans, host the Chargers and finally travel to Buffalo. The Jets' defense has also hit a nice groove over the past two weeks.
Buffalo Bills (4-6)
For giggles, I will tell you that Buffalo gets the Jaguars and Rams at home in the first two weeks of December. If the Bills could win in Indy on Sunday, they would gain tremendous confidence and momentum. But who can bank on Ryan Fitzpatrick, Mario Williams and Chan Gailey during this season of grotesque underachievement?