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NFL: AFC Contender or Pretender?

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When it comes to the AFC and being a contender or pretender, it is pretty simple. There is one contender with many pretenders. As we take a look at the division leaders in the AFC and place them in one of these two categories, we will see why they are such. Here are your post Week 8 contenders and pretenders in the AFC.

AFC South

Houston Texans

Right now the Texans are leading the division. They are leading not because they are good, but because the rest of the division is that bad. The rest of the division is either bad defensively or has no answers on offense. The Colts, still cannot run the ball, the Titans are still young at QB and Jags, and well they have regressed in 2016. This division has to be the worst in the NFL through 8 weeks probably. There has to be a winner and right now it clearly looks like the Texans. But come season end they will be pretenders for any deep playoff run.

AFC North

Pittsburgh Steelers

The Steelers are one of those teams that are easy to place. If they have a healthy Ben Roethlisberger behind center, they are a contender. They have one of the best offenses in the league at that point. If Roethlisberger is not behind center, they instantly become a pretender. There is no way that LeVeon Bell can handle all of that. Keep an eye on this team for the rest of the season. If they figure out a way to keep Ben on the field, the AFC becomes a two team race.

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AFC West

Oakland Raiders

I said at the beginning of training camp that this team would win the AFC West. Even though the Denver Broncos are playing better than expected, I still believe this. I think that the Raiders defense will get better as the season progresses. I also believe that they have one of the best young offenses in football.

They keep this together they are going to be strong over the years to come. As it pertains to 2016, however, I see them as a pretender for the title. They are just too young for the pressure of the playoffs. There is nothing wrong with baby steps when it comes to building a winner. This year the West and next year or 2018 something bigger.

Denver Broncos

Yes, it somewhat surprising that the Broncos are playing as well as they are. But with a defense as strong as theirs, the offense does not have to be on its best every day. Some thought me included, that even though Trevor Siemian would play well, the offense would have its struggles. Teams would stack the box and prepare for the running game, making the Broncos beat them over the top with the pass.

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Siemian has proved that he is more than capable of making the mark. However, I think the Broncos still fall into the category of a pretender. The playoff inexperience of Trevor Siemian is the main reason. If the Broncos stick with him and not make him a one-year bridge things should get better in 2017.

AFC East

New England Patriots

This is a one horse race. Even when they do not have Tom Brady they still can pull away from the competition. This team sets the standard for coaching. Bill Belichick could go down as the greatest coach in NFL history. That being said, this team is by far and away the best team in the AFC to date. There is no doubt that they should be one of the two representatives in the AFC Championship game. This well-coached and well-oiled machine is often a thing of beauty to watch. The question for the remainder of 2016 will be, how many games will the Patriots lose? This team is a contender.

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If your team is in this conference how do you feel about them? Are they in one of these categories or are they looking at the future? Either way, it is going to be an exciting second half of the 2016 NFL season.

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Robert D. Cobb
Founder, Publisher and CEO of INSCMagazine. Works have appeared and featured in places such as Forbes, Huffington Post, ESPN and NBC Sports to name a few. Follow me on Twitter at @RobCobb_INSC, email me at [email protected]