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Wednesday, November 09, 2005 

Dig a Pony

Now that every team has reached the midpoint of its season, it's a good time to stand back and take a look at the big picture. We'll start with the AFC.

Indianapolis and Denver have been the most impressive teams in the conference so far. The Colts defense is still vulnerable against quality offenses (Rams, Patriots) but Tony Dungy is finally starting to receive some dividends from all of his hard work. The offense is now more patient, as they are not as scared of falling behind. Monday night the Colts threw the ball more than they had all season, with Peyton Manning registering his first 300-yard game of the year. Manning has been managing the game much more effectively this year, giving Edgerrin James plenty of work and softening up opposing defenses for long passes to Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne. The Colts second-half schedule gets tougher, but there are few really scary games (Jacksonville, Pittsburgh, at Cincinnati), so home field advantage is their's to lose.

I would put Denver in the number two spot, as I'm not sold on Cincinnati and Pittsburgh yet. Denver is playing in a much more competitive division, and with the exception of an awful performance in their season-opener, they have been very impressive, winning six of their last seven games while outscoring their opponents 191 to 118. Jake Plummer's history of inconsistency still scares me, but he's had a solid first half. The Broncos' blowout wins over New England and Philadelphia do not look as impressive now, but beating both defending conference champions is still an achievement.

Looking ahead, the Cincinnati-Pittsburgh race in the AFC North should be a great battle, as there is no guarantee that the loser will earn a wild-card. San Diego, Kansas City, and Jacksonville will hang around for a while and could capture two of the three spots. The only thing that is certain at this point is that the AFC East will send only one team to the playoffs, probably as the fourth seed.

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