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Contenders and Pretenders in the AFC

With the regular season heading into the homestretch, teams are currently jockeying for position to represent the NFC in Super Bowl 7 to be held in February in the Arizona desert in Glendale. While there is still plenty of football left to be played, for those who bet on the Super Bowl, now is the time to begin sizing up contenders and pretenders.

Given the number of variables in play in the NFL, most notably injuries, attempting to beat the markets and attain even a modicum of closing line value is a stiff and formidable challenge. However, when glancing at Super Bowl odds, it’s critical to discern which teams have a real chance and which are overvalued.

Parity is something that has been prevalent in the NFL for years.  In fact, since 2010, 6 teams have represented the conference in the Big Game, the Bengals, Chiefs, Patriots, Broncos, Steelers and Colts. In this piece we will take a look at a trio of teams and discern which one is most likely to hoist the Lombardi Trophy and which will be watching the Super Bowl from the golf course.

The Contenders

Any conversation with AFC title contenders must begin with the Kansas City Chiefs. With the exception of the Patriots, who are seemingly in rebuilding mode and not a true contender, the Chiefs have experienced the most success as of late. They have appeared (and hosted) in the last four AFC title games, winning two and losing two, capturing a Super Bowl in the process.

With Coach Andy Reid and quarterback Patrick Mahomes at the controls, the Chiefs pose a huge threat to the competition and are as close as you can get to a sure bet to be a factor come mid-January. Once again, the team’s offense appears to be clicking as through Week 10 they find themselves atop the AFC West and are first in the entire league in total yards and passing yards. Defensively, they have been susceptible to the pass but are stout against the run.

Despite sitting in a tie for second in the East after a crushing blow to the Vikings, Buffalo is a squad that is eager to return to the title game for the second season in a row and reverse their fortunes. Is it a big if, but if quarterback Josh Allen is fully healthy, he’s recently been plagued by an elbow injury that hasn’t kept him out but has limited him somewhat, the sky’s the limit.

Buffalo and Kansas are in the same boat in one regard as they are both pass heavy and reliant on solid quarterback play. While both Allen and Mahomes are elite players, there’s always the question of injuries and both have proven to be durable and play through bumps and bruises. These factors make the Chiefs and Bills, in our estimation, the top two contenders to represent the AFC in Glendale.

Not So Fast

A few teams with good records have elevated the hopes of their fan bases, in some cases starving fan bases, and we’re here to have them pump the proverbial brakes. The New York Jets have been a portrait of futility in recent years and have not been part of the Super Bowl lines since way back in 1969 when quarterback Joe Namath famously predicted victory. While Gang Green has been impressive in the early going there still are a number of question marks.

Quarterback Zach Wilson has not been the franchise piece the organization hoped for. In 2022, through Week 10, the BYU product is averaging just 200 passing yards per game and has thrown 5 interceptions compared to 4 TD passes.

While a quarterback isn’t everything and teams can rely on a stout running game, New York lost promising back Breece Hall to a season-ending injury midway through the year. The Iowa State product averaged 5.8 yards a carry and scored 4 TD’s before suffering an ACL tear.

No question the Jet defense has been strong, allowing the 6 th fewest yards through Week 10.  However, when it’s all said and done, this is a franchise that has not had a winning record since 2015 and in that span failed to win more than 5 games on 6 occasions. With Wilson not yet hitting its stride, we feel comfortable labeling Gang Green as pretenders. 

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