The New England Patriots and the Baltimore Ravens have set themselves apart as the two legitimate contenders to win the American Football Conference this season.
New England looks like one of the most dominant teams in the NFL once again in 2019, with Tom Brady continuing to avoid looking like a 42-year-old quarterback for the time being.
Baltimore had a statement win against the Houston Texans in Week 11, as they dominated the Houston Texans in a matchup of two of the most exciting young quarterbacks in the game — Lamar Jackson and Deshaun Watson.
Jackson outdueled Watson in this game, as he threw four touchdowns and rushed for 86 yards to lead Baltimore to a dominant 41-7 win.
Watson had one of his worst performances of the season, passing for only 169 yards and throwing an interception.
Jackson missed a few throws early, but was lights out for the rest of the game and showed pocket presence, as well as his usual explosiveness with his legs.
Jackson is starting to get the credit he deserves for the great quarterback he is and the huge leap he has taken this year in his skills as a passer.
He is one of the front runners for the NFL’s Most Valuable Player award now and he definitely jumped over Watson in the race for the time being.
Russell Wilson and Christian McCaffrey also deserve consideration but unfortunately for McCaffrey, the award almost always goes to a quarterback. So, it’ll most likely be Wilson, Jackson or Watson.
Baltimore dominated Houston in every phase of the game, and proved that they have the defense and the offensive firepower to make themselves the other real contender in the AFC along with New England.
New England has not faced a tough schedule thus far, with their only loss coming against Baltimore in a game that could likely serve as a preview for an AFC Championship matchup in January.
Their schedule gets significantly more difficult in the coming weeks, as they will face the Dallas Cowboys, Houston Texans and Kansas City Chiefs who are all potential playoff teams.
They started off the season on fire on offense and while they’ve had a few slower performances in there, their offense seems to get better and better as the postseason approaches every year, and there have been no signs that this year will be any different.
There doesn’t appear to be another significant threat to take the crown in the AFC at this point, at least that can compete with Baltimore and New England in all around talent.
The Kansas City Chiefs have the offensive firepower to compete in any given matchup, especially now that Patrick Mahomes is healthy.
However, their defense is still a major concern in all phases and they haven’t looked like the same team as last year when they were almost Super Bowl bound.
Watson could lead Houston to an upset win or two in the playoffs if they make it in, but their defense without JJ Watt is not very threatening and it was proven over the weekend that they don’t match up very well with Baltimore.
The rest of the playoff teams pose little threat in the AFC playoff picture, as Indianapolis, Buffalo and Oakland don’t have the offensive firepower to win a playoff game in New England or Baltimore.
Ultimately, it is looking more and more like the AFC Championship will be a matchup between New England and Baltimore, and, with New England currently standing at 9-1 and Baltimore at 8-2, the race for the number one seed and home field advantage will be tight in the coming weeks.
Whichever team gets home field advantage will probably be the favorite in this game, and if the AFC playoffs go through Foxborough again, Brady and the Patriots will likely be headed to their fourth straight Super Bowl.
Janssen can be reached at [email protected]