Patriots (13-2): The question early in the season was whether a dominant team would emerge. It has. And it's the Patriots, who have the league's highest-scoring offense and have clinched the top seed in the AFC playoffs as they seek a fourth Super Bowl title under coach Bill Belichick and QB Tom Brady. Brady is playing almost flawlessly. The potential downfall? They're ranked 30th in the league in pass defense and 27th in total defense.
Steelers (11-4): They’ve secured a playoff spot and are in good position to wrap up the AFC North title and the No. 2 postseason seed, which would mean a first-round bye and a conference semifinal at home. The Steelers get that with a victory at Cleveland today or a Ravens loss to the Bengals.
Ravens (11-4): The Ravens probably are the AFC’s third-best team, but they likely are headed to a first-round playoff game on the road. They avoid that only if they beat the Bengals and the Steelers are upset by the Browns. In that case, the Ravens get the AFC North title and a first-round bye. Either way, though, they’ll be dangerous in the postseason, with marquee players on defense and a multifaceted offense led by QB Joe Flacco and RB Ray Rice.
Chiefs (10-5): Many people kept waiting for the Chargers to overtake them in the AFC West, but it never happened. The Chiefs were – and are – for real. They lead the league in rushing offense, and QB Matt Cassel has thrown 27 TD passes and only five interceptions. They’re 7-0 at home, and coach Todd Haley has Belichick’s former championship-winning coordinators – Charlie Weis on offense and Romeo Crennel on defense – at his disposal.
Jets (10-5): They got a wild-card spot last weekend, but there are reasons to fret for the Jets. They’ve lost three of their past four games since a 9-2 beginning. Perhaps the seemingly ceaseless string of controversies has taken its toll.
They’re looking good
Colts (9-6): It has been a struggle, for sure. But QB Peyton Manning and the Colts have delivered in crunch time this season, winning their past three games to reach the doorstep of another AFC South title. The Colts clinch the division crown with a victory at home today over the Titans or a Jaguars loss at Houston.
They’re still hoping
Jaguars (8-7): They’ve lost two straight after the division was theirs for the taking. They still can reach the postseason and, sure, they can beat the Texans. But they’ll have to count on the Titans to win in Indianapolis.