Long, long way to go in the 2016 season. Still, five weeks is enough information to compile rankings for the AFC as the teams stand today. The usual suspects appear to be contenders this year, and every team has at least a few weaknesses.
(1) New England Patriots (4-1)
The best coaching staff in the game coaxed three wins while Brady was suspended. Efficient offense with a pair of big tight ends complimented by a variety of shifty receivers. Mediocre pass defense is the best place to attack. Only blemish is a divisional home loss to Buffalo.
(2) Pittsburgh Steelers (4-1)
The #3 passing offense in the league is becoming even more dangerous with the emergence of Sammie Coates and his big play ability. Le’Veon Bell brings another dimension to the offense. The 25th ranked total defense has trouble stopping the pass. Their blowout loss in Philly is looking like an outlier.
(3) Denver Broncos (4-1)
Dropped their first game since last December on Sunday to Atlanta with Siemien out. Their passing offense is improved with a capable quarterback. Defense is still great against the pass, but can be run on. Health issues of HC Kubiak is cause for concern.
(4) Oakland Raiders (4-1)
So far, they represent the rare example of a successful offseason shopping spree. Arguably the best offensive line in the league gives their playmakers room to operate. Their pass defense has some flaws, but makes some big plays as well. Three road wins already is a great start for this franchise.
(5) Baltimore Ravens (3-2)
Hoping to get the offense on track after dropping consecutive home games. Defense is much improved with more experience in the secondary and speed at linebacker, but the offensive line is an issue.
(6) Houston Texans (3-2)
Medicore offense has plenty of weapons, but Osweiler has not been able to pull it together. Their top passing defense was dealt a major blow with the season ending injury to J.J. Watt. The schedule becomes more challenging down the stretch.
(7) Buffalo Bills (3-2)
Have won three in a row - home against Arizona, at New England and at Los Angeles. Opportunistic defense that brings pressure and is stout in the red zone. The worst passing offense in the league greatly limits their upside.
(8) Cincinnati Bengals (2-3)
Disappointing display so far, especially in last weekend’s loss to Dallas. Below average rushing offense holds back their capable passing attack. Defense has been solid, but takeaways and sacks are down from last year. Could find their fourth loss at New England in Week 6.
(9) Kansas City Chiefs (2-2)
Poor offensive line play has forced a reliance on screen passes. Defense leads the league in interceptions but is not generating much pass rush. Hoping Jamaal Charles and Tamba Hali are healthy coming out of the early bye week, and Justin Houston can return soon. Contest in Oakland this coming Sunday looms large.
(10) Tennessee Titans (2-3)
Marcus Mariota has produced two wins and is coming off his best game to date in Miami. Quietly, their defense is playing pretty well. They have allowed only six touchdowns in five games.
(11) Indianapolis Colts (2-3)
The offense generates points, but they have allowed more sacks than any other team. By virtually every measure, the defense is inept. Road games at Houston and Tennessee the next two weeks are huge.
(12) Miami Dolphins (1-4)
Worst turnover differential (-7), most rushing yards allowed by the defense (150/game) and fewest rushes attempted by the offense (18/game) in the AFC. Offense has big play ability and defense has some nice pieces, the problem has been their offensive line.
(13) New York Jets (1-4)
Tough early schedule has left them reeling. Run defense is still a strength, but the pass defense has been terrible and Revis is injured. Ryan Fitzpatrick has tossed an NFL leading ten interceptions.
(14) Jacksonville Jaguars (1-3)
Revamped defense is getting better. Their offense has been inefficient and disappointing overall. Still at least a year away. HC Gus Bradley is on the hot seat.
(15) San Diego Chargers (1-4)
Masters of giving the game away in the fourth quarter. Better than their record, but Denver, at Atlanta, at Denver over the next three could bury them. On the bright side, Bosa had a strong game last week.
(16) Cleveland Browns (0-5)
Lacking talent and injury ravaged. Sadness sums it up.