by Scott Benson

The AFC’s potential playoff field is thinning as we head into the stretch run with just five games left.

This week the Big Board says goodbye to the Chiefs and Ravens, who both dropped to seven losses on Sunday, which gives me all the reason I need to ditch them. I never liked them anyway. You can’t see me, but I’m making that big ‘L’ with my thumb and forefinger right now.

Two big stories this week:

1) The New England Patriots, who we’re not biased towards at all, became the first team to formally grab a playoff spot by winning the AFC East and tying a league record for the earliest division clinch, and;

2) Cleveland Browns have ascended to the second wild card spot (necessary caveat: IF the playoffs began today) with their Sunday win over the Houston Texans. They jumped over the reeling Tennessee Titans, who I think we jinxed by starting up this weekly column. When we launched a few weeks ago, the Titans were a sparkling 6-3, but when word of this column reached Nashville, they promptly dropped three straight.

Just as well. I don’t like them either, especially Jeff Fisher. And I say that with full knowledge that the Competition Committee will probably come after PD in the off-season, just like they did Bill Belichick, by making fan blogs illegal or something. Because after all, people only serve on the NFL’s rule-making body to do one thing: settle old scores with people they can’t beat on the field.

It sure as hell isn’t to straighten out the pass interference rule.

Anyway, the Brownies are doing the whole Cinderella thing, which has got to make you feel great, with old friends Romeo Crennel, Willie McGinest and Ethan Kelley (look it up) leading the charge. That’s my version of events anyway, like when I point out that the only time the Chiefs were any good this year was when Damon Huard was their quarterback. Anyway, I am delighted at the prospect of a Wild Card Weekend featuring the Browns at the Steelers. Or vice versa. Especially vice versa.

I’m getting all misty here. We better go to the chart.

So status quo from last week’s chart, save the emergence of the Browns. The Pats hold on to the top spot, where they enjoy a three game cushion over the Colts (the Pats have to lose three of five while the Colts win out in order to lose the top seed). The Steelers hang in at number three, although that ought to be taken away from them on principle alone. They’ve played the two worst teams in football over the last two weeks and have tied them by a combined 19-19 score. But I’m sure they’re just bored by the lack of competition or something. It can’t be that they’re puffed-up fakers. Not the Steelers.

San Diego and the red hot Jags round out this week’s field. Let’s see what this weekend has in store.


Jacksonville at Indy – Marquee matchup. The surging Jaguars can pull into an AFC South tie with the Colts, though Indy would still get the temporary edge with the better division record. Still, this is what December is all about. Kudos to David Garrard for his effiecient play this season. No interceptions in eight games? It’s kind of encouraging to see, actually, with so much poor quarterbacking going on this fall.

New England at Baltimore – The Pats begin life after Colvin (and blueprints) with their third straight prime-time game. By the way, Peter “Nobody gets up for a prime-time, nationally televised game like the Ravens” King, some BSMW pals looked it up this week, and Baltimore is 2-6 in those games since 2005. You were saying?

Cincinnati at Pittsburgh – Cincy blasted the Titans but good last week, so let’s hope they still have a little spoiler left in them for this trip to Pittsburgh.

San Diego at Kansas City – I see this as yet another litmus test for these Chargers. They’ve been abysmal on the road, but this time, they’re lucky enough to draw the Chiefs, losers of four straight. If San Diego can get out of there without incident, they could very well win the West decisively after all. One foreboding note for the Bolts: Damon Huard is back!

Cleveland at Arizona – I’m still pissed at the Cards for finding a way to lose to the Niners last week, knocking the Pats 08 draft pick down a peg or two. So we’re sending Romeo out there to straighten them out.

Houston at Tennessee – Me last week, on the Titans-Bengals match-up: “A legit group should be able to manage the 3-7 Bengals.” Enough said. I should probably add that I hope to be able to use this same line next week as well, if you know what I’m saying.

Tune in later today for another edition of Niner Watch.