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With the Cleveland Browns having big goals for the 2021 season, everything around the AFC matters to the team. Obviously, the team has to take care of winning football games themselves before conversations about the AFC North and AFC overall titles really begin to take hold.
That doesn’t mean we can’t keep track of the conference week to week to get a feel for what the competition for the playoffs and, perhaps, in the playoffs might look like. Much like years gone by, when tracking who was competing for high draft picks was an art form often reviewed in written form, Cleveland is interested in the rest of the conference.
This time it is more about the top of the conference than the bottom.
The Browns did their part by defeating the Chicago Bears in Week 3 but how did the rest of the AFC competition stack up?
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Baltimore – 2 – 1 – As our Jeff Risdon relayed on Lion Wire, the Ravens were saved by a non-call that set up the amazing 66-yard field goal to win the game. The referees missed a clear play clock violation. Either way, Baltimore is 2 – 1 and, based on alphabetical order for this piece, listed first in the AFC North.
Cleveland – 2 – 1 – The Browns handled business against the Bears with a strong defensive showing and a balanced offense that took a little while to get going. The schedule toughens up a bit for the team starting in Week 4.
Cincinnati – 2 – 1 – They don’t care how, they just care that they are winning. The Bengals sit in a tie for first after making rival Pittsburgh look silly in Week 3. The Steelers made it easy for the other Ohio team.
Pittsburgh – 1 – 2 – It is never smart to count out a team with such a strong history like the Steelers but they look like a team with a rebuild ahead of them. Ben Roethlisberger is a shell of a player and the injuries on defense make it hard for them to compete right now.
Buffalo – 2 – 1 – After an opening week loss to the Steelers, the Bills have righted the ship in a big way the last two weeks. They shut out Miami before taking it to Washington. The offense is clicking with Josh Allen and the passing game but can they find a run game when it is needed the most?
Miami – 1 – 2 – Their lone win was a one-point victory over New England with losses to two quality teams (Buffalo, Las Vegas). The Dolphins seem to still be trying to find themselves and will have to adjust again when Tua Tagovailoa returns from injury.
New England – 1 – 2 – The big story in Week 4 will be Tom Brady returning to New England but the Patriots continued struggles, despiting spending a lot of money in free agency, may be even bigger. Mac Jones interceptions (3) were the story in Week 3. Can the rookie make strides in-season or do fans start wondering why the team cut Cam Newton?
New York Jets – 0 – 3 – The Jets could be in competition for the worst record in the NFL, if the first three weeks are any indication. With the worst point differential in the league (-50), New York’s decision to anoint Zach Wilson the starter hasn’t gone well yet. The Jets have only scored 20 points in three games, half as many as the next closest team (the Bears with 40).
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Tennessee – 2 – 1 – None of the four AFC South teams have a positive point differential through three weeks. The Titans were able to take care of the Colts on the back of Derrick Henry despite Ryan Tannehill’s struggles. With injuries plaguing the receiver group, Henry might have to be the team’s entire offense soon.
Houston – 1 – 2 – The second place Texans got destroyed by the Carolina Panthers on Thursday Night Football in Week 3. With Tyrod Taylor out, the try-hard group of veterans didn’t have enough to make it work scoring only 9 points while giving up 24 despite Christian McCaffrey’s injury during the game.
Indianapolis – 0 – 3 – Not exactly how Chris Ballard thought his Colts team would be trending but the lack of quality quarterback play, and injuries, are making things difficult. The Colts have played three quality teams so far but their schedule doesn’t let up enough (winnable games against Miami and Houston) before Week 9 and 10 against the Jets and Jacksonville Jaguars. Will it be too late for Indy by then?
Jacksonville – 0 – 3 – The Jags gave Houston their lone win and lost a third-quarter lead in Week 3. How will Urban Meyer and Trevor Lawrence react to more losses than they’ve experienced in a long time? The talent is there with Lawrence but it may take longer than many expected.
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Denver – 3 – 0 – The only two unbeaten teams in the AFC both reside in the AFC West and neither is Kansas City. The Broncos have ridden Teddy Bridgewater and a VERY easy schedule (New York Giants, Jaguars, Jets) to their perfect record. The next few games, including against the Browns, will be telling for Denver.
Las Vegas – 3 – 0 – The Raiders have had a more difficult schedule with wins against the Ravens and Steelers, as well as the Dolphins. Their games have been closer than Denver’s but that shouldn’t minimize their success. Derek Carr has been playing at an MVP level (386 yards in Week 3) while the team got 111 yards on the ground from veteran Peyton Barber against the Dolphins.
Los Angeles Chargers – 2 – 1 – The Chargers played some close games this season but knocked off Kansas City in Week 3 in an upset. Justin Herbert has been steadily very good this year (4 touchdowns against the Chiefs) and the defense was able to slow down Patrick Mahomes and company, holding Tyreek Hill to 56 yards and forcing two interceptions.
Kansas City – 1 – 2 – The Chiefs are very close to being 0 – 3 this season. Their Week 1 win against the Browns was controlled by the visitors most of the game but they pulled it out. Kansas City’s defense looks bad and they have become less consistent on offense. The addition of Josh Gordon could be scary but Cleveland fans know his history all too well. Week 4 against Philadelphia should help the Chiefs get back on the right track.