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Elite group of none


Picking a favorite in the NFC is easy. There are at least two clear-cut choices, Philadelphia and Minnesota. Picking a favorite to win the AFC, however, is darn near impossible.

OK, who would you pick? New England? Did you see that run-defense? It's currently tied for 30th in the league rankings.

Kansas City? The Chiefs are the other 30th-ranked run-defense. The Chiefs couldn't stop a door from swinging shut.

Indianapolis? The Colts have the league's next-to-worst pass-defense.

Baltimore? The Ravens couldn't score a touchdown against Cleveland.

Tennessee? The Titans' salary cap looks like a balloon filled with too much air, each week results in another season-ending injury, and Steve McNair threw for only 73 yards against the Dolphins.

Those are supposed to be your favorites, folks. What a star-studded collection they are not.

The point to all of this is that it would appear the AFC is wide open. With apologies to San Diego, Houston and a couple of others, maybe, everybody else is in this thing.

Yeah, New England gets the nod. The Patriots are the defending Super Bowl champions and they have a great quarterback, a clutch kicker and a great coach. But the Patriots also have the look of a team getting old and soft on defense. Frankly, with Ted Washington gone the Patriots may not have the personnel to play the 3-4. The Colts punched them in the nose. The Colts!

And how 'bout those Colts. Everybody loves them because everybody loves Peyton Manning. But what about when it's crunch time? Who's going to quarterback the Colts then? And have you looked at their opening schedule? They take 0-1 to Tennessee this week, then head home to play Green Bay, before traveling to Jacksonville. The next three weeks are real big for the Colts. We may have an answer on them before Halloween.

Unless something dramatic happens on defense in Kansas City, the Chiefs will remain statistical wonders. If you put them in a boxing ring with the Colts, neither team would need a cut man.

So, who? Pittsburgh? Cincinnati? Oakland? The Jets? It has to be somebody, right?

All right, what about Denver? The Broncos were pretty impressive in knocking the Chiefs around. The Broncos are tied for eighth in total offense, tied for second in rushing. They're ninth against the pass, but need to fix their run-defense, which is 25th.

Of all the teams in the AFC, Denver probably turned in the most impressive performance in week one. It had a measure of quality to it. The Broncos' stock shot up sharply in their win over KC.

This Sunday we'll get an up-close look at the Broncos, when they help the Jaguars open their home season. We'll measure the Broncos' vaunted running game against one of the league's best run-defenses. We'll look 'em over and decide where they fit among the AFC favorites, which, in this reporter's opinion, is an elite group of none.

We'll also get a chance this Sunday to measure the Jaguars. Where do they fit?

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