The AFC’s various contenders are looking more exposed every week for the Chiefs.
On Thursday night, the Indianapolis Colts and Tennessee Titans opened up Week 10 with an AFC South showdown that should prove important for the division race and playoff positioning in the AFC. For the Kansas City Chiefs, an outsider resting on a bye week, it was a chance to see just how uninspiring the competition looks, for the most part, in the conference
The Chiefs sit at 8-1 and, if the season were to end today, would receive the No. 2 overall seed in the AFC for the postseason. The Pittsburgh Steelers are 8-0 and claim the top seed at present, the NFL’s lone unbeaten team who have run the tables in the first half of the regular season. Beyond Pittsburgh, however, the competition for the AFC looks weak. Even with so many weeks to go, the AFC looks like a two-horse race.
Back to Thursday Night Football, a clash of two teams hoping to not only emerge in the AFC South but prove their potential for the postseason as well. Credit the Colts for putting away the Titans in an important game, but instead of inspiring confidence in Frank Reich‘s team, the exhibition was largely a display of how much the Titans have deflated.
Looking back, we should have questioned the Titans supremacy all along. The team was once 5-0 after six weeks (they had an early bye) yet those wins were almost all against pitiful teams. Early wins include the Denver Broncos, Jacksonville Jaguars, and Minnesota Vikings along with an overtime win over the Houston Texans. Their dominant win over the Buffalo Bills seemed the prime example of how good they could be, but then we’ve also watched Buffalo fade back to a lesser tier in recent weeks as well.
As for the Colts, the win over Tennessee is a good one, to be sure, but this is the same team that’s also lost to the Jaguars and Cleveland Browns. They were also defeated by the Baltimore Ravens, but John Harbaugh’s team is always a tough out and remains a formidable challenge for any team in the AFC—Chiefs and Steelers included.
That said, even the Ravens aren’t the fearsome opponent they were made out to be in the preseason. The Ravens were media darlings coming into this season, as if Lamar Jackson was on the same MVP-to-Super-Bowl-MVP trajectory as Patrick Mahomes. Instead, the Chiefs swallowed them whole in Week 3 and the Steelers also beat them in their first AFC North clash, separating the Ravens from the clear pack of top contenders. The talent is there in Baltimore, but if they want to re-enter that conversation, they’re going to have to earn it.
One month ago, the Titans, Bills, Ravens, and Browns were all considered a bit more dangerous than they are today. The AFC has plenty of talented teams, but at the halfway point, the race for the top is a two-team challenge. The Steelers and Chiefs have proven to be in a class above the others to date and the question will be whether or not they can maintain that momentum through the second half.