The Contenders AFC
Kansas City Chiefs
MVP Caliber High-Level Starting QB's
All four division-leading teams are my front runners to make it to the Super Bowl. The Kansas City Chiefs reclaimed the top spot of my AFC power rankings for a few reasons. They have an MVP-level QB in Patrick Mahomes, as do the Ravens (Lamar Jackson) and the Bills (Josh Allen).
Offensive Line Rankings According To PFF
The teams boasting the best offensive line play among my contenders include Kansas City (2nd), New England (11th), Baltimore (11th), and Tennessee (17th).
The Bills OL
According to PFF, the Buffalo Bills have the 18th rated pass-blocking offensive line, with the 24th rated run blocking OL. The Bills OL has been inconsistent in 2021, it is an area they must improve down the stretch if they are going to remain a legit contender.
The Patriots OL
The Patriots, who have the 3rd highest graded pass offense, have the 19th rated pass-blocking grade and the 8th highest run-blocking grade. The Patriots are using the quick throw game with great success while also blocking at a high level in the run game.
The Ravens OL
The Ravens are similar to that of the Patriots; they grade out at 14th pass pro and 6th in run blocking. We know the key to the run game is on the shoulders of Lamar Jackson, but as we just witnessed vs the Dolphins who ran a lot of cover 0 and came after Jackson, there is a way to stifle him.
I found a great analysis about the Dolphin's use of cover 0 and pressure looks against the Ravens. It is a copycat league, so I expect to see more teams challenging the Ravens at the LOS and coming after Lamar until he can show he can make them pay for leaving the back end of their defense open.
The Titans OL
The Titans are 29th in pass-blocking grade and 12th in run blocking.
Running The Ball Down The Stretch
The Ravens Run Offense
The key for all of these teams as we come down the stretch will be their ability to run the football, the Ravens have the best offense for that, but they cannot just rely on Lamar to make plays on the ground in playoff games.
The Patriots Run Offense
The top RB among my contenders is Damien Harris, who is in a Patriots offense dedicated to a committee approach; they also proved they could be dominant on the ground without Harris as Rhamondre Stevenson surpassed 100 rush yards with Harris out in week 10.
Chiefs Run Offense
The Kansas City Chiefs should get RB Clyde Edwards Helaire back in week 11; if so, he would move the needle slightly for the Chiefs in their ability to move the football on the ground.
The Bills and Titans Run Offenses Are Similar After Derrick Henry Injury
The Bills and Titans, to me, are in a weird place at the RB position. The Titans lost Derrick Henry to a season-ending injury but have done well with their makeshift committee backfield.
The Bills have three backs of their own, but I have a hard time ranking them ahead of the Titan's current backfield. I still give the Bills a slight edge; Singletary and Moss are a decent tandem; the wildcard is how much the Bills can get out of Matt Breida after his two TD performances in week 10?
The AFC Contender Defenses
Bills, Titans, And Patriots Top The List
The Bills top the list, followed by the Titans and the Patriots. The Ravens have done a great job after Losing Marcus Peters, and now they are without safety Deshon Elliott.
The Patriots have been solid with Matt Judon leading the way, and the Titans, who started rough, have now looked all world led by Jeff Simmons upfront, who has 7.5 sacks, Harrold Landry, who has 10 sacks, and in the secondary Kevin Byard has been very good with 5 INT's. The Titans are surging on defense, and I mentioned all of that and still feel like I am not giving them enough credit.
The AFC Darkhorse New England Patriots
I mentioned the Patriot's offensive line and their ability to run the football, as you can see above. But it has been the development of rookie QB Mac Jones that has separated the Patriots within a division where many had them finishing third; they are now legitimate contenders in the AFC East.
Mac Jones was graded out as the best QB in week 10, according to PFF. No rookie since 2006 has graded out higher than Mac Jones through the first ten weeks; he is also the 5th highest graded QB this season. Hats off to Josh McDaniel for his ability to put Jones in the best possible position to be successful.