Why Each AFC Playoff Team Can and Can’t Win the Super Bowl

The 2016 NFL Season was something to remember and with 2017 just getting underway, we now have the playoff teams locked in. Each team with their own unique strengths and weaknesses. Here is how each AFC team will or will not win the 2017 Super Bowl.

By: Jeremy Dawson | Sunday Jan 01, 2017

New England Patriots

NFL: AFC Divisional-Kansas City Chiefs at New England PatriotsCan: With an NFL best 14-2 record this season, it’d be hard to debate against the Patriots as early Super Bowl favorites. Tom Brady has won four Super Bowls already and he is playing at as high of a level as he ever has before. In the team’s week 17 win over the Miami Dolphins Brady threw for three touchdowns, giving him 28 on the season. With only two interceptions in 2016, Brady now holds the record for the best single-season touchdown/interception ratio in NFL history. Patriots running back LeGarrette Blount also had career highs in rushing yards and touchdowns. With Blount leading all NFL backs in 2016 in rushing touchdowns with 17, the Patriots have become a real threat in the run game this season. If they can keep the offense clicking, there is no reason why this team won’t be crowned champions.

Can’t: It is not easy to find a way to beat the New England Patriots. With Tom Brady at QB the team only lost one game this season, to the Seattle Seahawks. Tom Brady threw no touchdowns and one interception in that game and Russell Wilson threw for over 300 yards and 3 touchdowns. The Seahawks won that game by only one possession. The one wall I could see the Patriots hitting is if they meet a high scoring offense. Although the Patriots have let up the least points per game in the NFL this season, they have not been a team to force many turnovers. If a team can keep up or pull in an early lead, the Patriots could be in trouble.

Kansas City Chiefs

Can: The Chiefs fought their way to the top of the best division in the AFC and a first-round playoff bye this season. Rookie running back Tyreek Hill has emerged as one of the most explosive weapons in the NFL with 12 touchdowns on huge receptions, rushes, kick returns, and punt returns. They also have Travis Kelce who led the NFL in receiving yards from a tight end, which is a nice weapon for Alex Smith who loves his check downs. The biggest factor that would lead the Chiefs to a Super Bowl however is their defense. The team finished first in fumbles recovered and third in interceptions. If this defense can keep forcing miscues from opposing quarterbacks then they will have a chance of beating every opponent they face.

Can’t: Alex Smith and Andy Reid. It really does not get much deeper than that. On the road to the Super Bowl the team is bound to have a close game. Reid has tendencies of shooting himself in the foot in the biggest moments and Smith is not the quarterback you want during those moments. Alex Smith had a thousand yard tight end, some of the top receiving running backs in the league, an arsenal of solid wide receivers, and still only managed to throw for 15 touchdowns. If a team leaves the game in the hands of Smith with not much time left and Andy Reid with limited timeouts, don’t be surprised if their season ends that night.

Pittsburgh Steelers

Can: Offensive powerhouse. Ben Roethlisberger has been there before so you know the moment is not going to be too big for them. They have the most well rounded running back in the NFL in Le’Veon Bell and arguably the best receiver in Antonio Brown. This team can put up points with the best of them. The Steelers defense has also progressed greatly throughout the season and guys like Ryan Shazier are bound to make some big plays in the postseason. The team is also riding into the playoffs on an impressive seven-game win streak and could just be reaching their potential.

Can’t: They are just a mediocre defense. Mediocrity can sometimes be enough when your offense is good enough and theirs seems to be at times. Any game that the offense scored lower than 24 points this season however, the team lost. The moment a team gets the Steelers to where they need to rely on their defense, they are in big trouble.

Houston Texans

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Can: The team has a championship defense. They are letting up the third least yards of any team in the NFL this season, and that’s without JJ Watt. They have the fifth most sacks in the NFL, and that’s without JJ Watt. They are seventh in the league in points allowed, and that is without… You get it. The defense can keep them in the games and with weapons like Deandre Hopkins, Will Fuller, and Lamar Miller, this team could come alive at just the right time.

Can’t: Brock Osweiler is 27th in passing yards, 26th in passing touchdowns, and has the fourth most interceptions in the NFL. This has led to the team starting Tom Savage and it doesn’t appear that he can get much more done than the guy he is taking over for. It can be hard to put a lot of faith in a team who doesn’t get at least decent play from their quarterback.  

Oakland Raiders

Can: The Oakland Raiders were having their best season in recent memory until their quarterback, Derek Carr went down with a broken leg in week 16 and Matt McGloin was called upon to fill the role of a young QB who was performing at a near-MVP level. But this is the can part…. So what CAN the Raiders do to win the Super Bowl? Hope that rookie quarterback Connor Cook, who filled in on Sunday when McGloin went down with a shoulder injury, is another Dak Prescott and will exceed our wildest expectations. With solid receiver weapons and a defensive front that is as disruptive as any in the NFL, a glimmer of hope remains. Defensive end Khalil Mack is going to have to play at a Von Miller Super Bowl MVP level for the entire playoffs, but he did that for most of the regular season so it is certainly possible.

Can’t: Carr going down is too much to overcome. Their quarterback was playing at an MVP caliber level this season and his injury doesn’t drop the talent level of the team dramatically but it ultimately led to the team losing all momentum and their opportunity for a first round bye. Also, although the defensive front is great, it slowly gets worse the further back on the defense you look. So without a solid passing game keeping your defense off of the field for extended periods of time, eventually the stronger offenses will find their openings.

Miami Dolphins

Can: Unlike the Raiders, the Miami Dolphins CAN win because their quarterback went down… Joking… sort of. The team was certainly not winning games because of Ryan Tannehill, but we have yet to see that the new starter, Matt Moore, is any better. The Miami defense is solid with the likes of Ndamukong Suh and Cameron Wake to be strong forces up front. The running game also saw new life this season behind the legs of the young Jay Ajayi. Their receivers are nothing to scoff at either with Jarvis Landry, DeVante Parker, and Kenny Stills. If the team can rally behind a new QB, the defense can force some turnovers, and the running game keeps it up the Dolphins could find themselves as the surprise team of the year.

Can’t: Another AFC team with quarterback questions. It seems like it will always be Brady, Roethlisberger, and then a game of “Guess Who” in the AFC. Also the Dolphins defense, although they have the big names, has been far from efficient this season. The only teams who let up more yards per game than the Dolphins are the teams with the first two picks in the draft. They don’t let up too many points but in the playoffs, when the stakes are at their highest, those yards will amount to much more when you are facing the best teams in the league.

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