With respect to a locked-in Philip Rivers and the improving Andrew Luck, I’ve known the AFC of the last decade to be dominated by three quarterbacks: Peyton Manning, Tom Brady and Ben Roethlisberger.
They’ve represented the AFC in 10 of the last 11 Super Bowls. On Sunday, they all face a familiar AFC foe with history well in their favor.
- Tom Brady is 22-2 against Buffalo with 54 TD, 19 INT (100.1 PR).
- Ben Roethlisberger is 18-1 against Cleveland with 28 TD, 13 INT (97.7 PR).
Those records are as good as it gets for a quarterback against a divisional opponent, but what does it really tell us? I find three main takeaways:
1. Despite many changes around them over the years, Brady and Roethlisberger have been two of the league’s best quarterbacks and will both be in the Hall of Fame. They play consistently well against a lot of different teams.
2. The Bills and Browns are two of the NFL’s most consistent losers. The Bills haven’t been in the playoffs since 1999 and the Browns 2.0 have one playoff season (lost to the Steelers for the third time in 2002).
3. Then there’s the makeup of these teams. Brady and Roethlisberger usually enjoy good defenses, while the Browns and Bills have struggled to find a quarterback capable of scoring many points. So these meetings turn into a lot of easy wins for Ben and Brady. Even when they don’t play well, it’s usually a win (see Week 17 last year for both).
If there was ever a time when Brady and Roethlisberger could both lose to their helpless rivals in the same season, it’s on Sunday.
Both will be on the road. Steelers-Browns is the first rematch of the 2014 season. Cleveland erased a 24-point deficit in the second half in Week 1 and nearly won in Pittsburgh. The Bills have roughed up Brady in the past, holding him under 5.6 YPA in both meetings last year (Doug Marrone’s first season as coach). The problem is the New England running game usually stomps all over Buffalo’s poor run defense, but some are still skeptical of the offensive line this year.
These games could be very intriguing with first place in the AFC East on the line in Patriots-Bills. I’m not sold that Kyle Orton is ready to deliver against a defense that’s good at creating turnovers. In Cleveland, I think Roethlisberger will have a solid day leading the offense. Joe Haden has not been able to stop Antonio Brown in past meetings and they could pick on the rookie Justin Gilbert again. The problem is on defense. The Steelers don’t create turnovers while the Browns have been protecting the ball very well. The Browns are effective on the ground and with using play-action passing — two things that have plagued the Steelers of recent years.
I know better than to pick against the Patriots again. As for the other game, it’s just not in my nature to pick the Browns over the Steelers even if I think there’s a good chance the Browns take this game at home.
Patriots 20, Bills 13
Steelers 24, Browns 21
Then there’s Peyton Manning and the Broncos against Rex Ryan’s Jets, losers of four straight. This one has the ingredients for a Denver blowout. The Jets are the 4th defense since 1940 to allow at least 12 touchdown passes and no more than one interception in the first five games of a season. How can they contend with Denver’s receiving corps, especially after Demaryius Thomas got on track with a huge game last week? Shut down Demaryius and the Broncos still have Emmanuel Sanders, who has caught 32-of-42 passes for 435 yards. His implementation into the offense has been immediately effective and highly efficient. Welker’s working his way back from a concussion and suspension. Then of course there’s Julius Thomas, who already has seven touchdowns. The Broncos can’t run the ball well, but that’s not what they’re going to rely on to beat the Jets.
Geno Smith has to start at quarterback, because we know Michael Vick isn’t the answer for any NFL team. Regardless, the Jets need a miracle to win this game to avoid a 1-5 start. I just don’t see any reasonable manner in which they pull this one off. Manning has done very well against much better Ryan defenses in the past.
- Peyton Manning vs. Rex Ryan as Ravens DC/Jets HC (2005-10): 5-2 record, 126/197 (64%) for 1,738 yards, 8.82 YPA, 13 TD, 2 INT, 109.9 PR
One of the losses was the “Curtis Painter Game” in 2009. The second was in the last meeting, 17-16 in the 2010 AFC Wild Card, after the Jets scored on a last-second field goal.
Since 2009, 17 of the 18 teams to beat Manning scored at least 26 points. That 17-16 Jets game is the outlier.
That’s also the last time Ryan had a winning team. To beat Manning’s Broncos, you have to score a lot of points and/or shrink the game by being efficient and effective on offense. That’s not the Jets.
Broncos 34, Jets 14
NFL Week 6 Predictions
I had the Colts on Thursday, and for a change we actually had a good game I get to write about.
Winners in bold:
- Lions at Vikings
- Panthers at Bengals
- Ravens at Buccaneers
- Steelers at Browns
- Packers at Dolphins
- Broncos at Jets
- Patriots at Bills
- Jaguars at Titans
- Chargers at Raiders
- Cowboys at Seahawks
- Bears at Falcons
- Redskins at Cardinals
- Giants at Eagles
- 49ers at Rams
I had a lot of road teams, so I ended up changing some 50/50 picks at the last second to go with Vikings and Bengals at home.
Forget DeMarco Murray’s rarefied rushing company to start this season. Forget Russell Wilson’s rushing numbers on Monday night. I will be shocked if Marshawn Lynch isn’t the dominant player in Sunday’s big game against Dallas and its 32nd-ranked run defense. Don’t count the Cowboys out. Tony Romo led Dallas to a win in New Orleans (13-0 at the time) in 2009 and also knocked off the 9-0 Colts in 2006. Those are big wins, and yes, they really happened. This could be a good one, but who really wants to bet against Seattle at home right now?
- Week 1: 8-8
- Week 2: 9-7
- Week 3: 11-5
- Week 4: 8-5
- Week 5: 11-4
- Total: 47-29