The New England Patriots, Baltimore Ravens, and Pittsburgh Steelers began the season as the prohibitive favorites in the AFC to beat the Super Bowl odds but among that top shelf group only Baltimore is currently looking “Super” while Pittsburgh and New England have been remarkably inconsistent.
What is most fascinating about the AFC however is a new crop of teams that have been in the surprise category of new contenders to make for interesting value selections with the Super Bowl odds.
The surprises begin with head coach Chan Gailey’s Buffalo Bills as they won 5 out of their first 8 games after being considered a team that might finish near the basement of the AFC East. Gailey has built a team in his image that is no nonsense, fundamentally sound, and plays within itself. He has also proven to be an excellent mentor for quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick as the Ivy League’s own has finally blossomed.
Just as surprising and exciting have been the Cincinnati Bengals under head coach Marvin Lewis. The Bengals were written off for dead by their own long time quarterback Carson Palmer, who refused to report to camp and vowed to retire unless traded. Lewis has used his expertise as a former defensive coordinator with the Baltimore Ravens to bulk up the Bengal stop unit while going with rookie quarterback Andy Dalton of TCU, who has been a major asset in place of Palmer. The Bengals are playing with great team chemistry and promise and could emerge as the surprise of the year. Their 6-2 start had them on top of the AFC North.
The Houston Texans are not as much a surprise as a team that is finally reaching the potential many saw in them for many years. Houston won 6 of their first 9 games and was dominating the AFC South. For head coach Gary Kubiak, who has overseen collapses the past two years in which playoff spots were expected, it is not quite time to celebrate but the future looks promising.
One team that may prove to have been overrated is the New York Jets. When you get beyond the bluster and Super Bowl guarantees of head coach Rex Ryan you have a club that has not fully developed inconsistent 3rd year quarterback Mark Sanchez and has seen their once vaunted pass defense slip to a point in which it is now a concern.