Czar: Re-seeding the AFC playoffs

BY foxsports • January 4, 2010

Can we re-seed the playoffs? If Matt Moore was the starter from day one, don’t you think the Panthers would be advancing? And we all knew the Broncos were frauds and their future is none too bright with a pending Brandon Marshall divorce.

In the AFC playoffs, there is only one final solution. Here are my rankings:

ALSO SEE: Re-seeding the NFC playoff field

6. Baltimore Ravens (actual seed: 6)

This a team with aging defensive stars like Ray Lewis and Ed Reed, but with very shaky cornerback play. For some reason, the offensive line, which gave up four sacks to the Raiders on Sunday, hasn't been protecting Joe Flacco, who needs it if he’s ever going to throw deep.

How they could win: You have to love both Ray Rice, who is a Pro Bowl runner, and Willis McGahee, who scored 14 touchdowns this season. If the running game is dominant and they play penalty-free, the Ravens can win playing clock ball.

Why they won’t win: Baltimore was 1-6 against playoff teams this season and they simply don’t have any big-time playmakers at the receiver position.

5. Cincinnati Bengals (actual seed: 4)

You have to believe they will play much better at home this weekend than they did Sunday night. They did rest RB Cedric Benson and other starters, but I sure wish the run defense would have shown a little more fight.

This team swept the AFC North and finished in the top 10 in total defense, but maybe they played their best football in November?

How they could win: They need to drastically improve their pass rush because their young cornerbacks can play and are aggressive. They need to quit dropping passes and Chad Ochocinco, who had his streak of 120 games with a reception end against the Jets, needs to beat Darrelle Revis this weekend.

Why they won’t win: The loss of Chris Henry deprived them of any deep threat in the passing game and they were gashed for 257 rushing yards by the Jets. A repeat performance is looming.

4. New England Patriots (actual seed: 3)

Tom Brady deserves some Comeback Player of the Year recognition for returning from a horrible knee operation, then fighting through broken ribs and a broken ring finger on his throwing hand. He still managed his third career 4,000-yard passing season and it’s difficult to count out maybe the decade’s best player and head coach Bill Belichick.

However, the defense lacks any big-time playmakers and is susceptible to any respectable quarterback.

How they could win: They must play turnover-free offense and rookie WR Julian Edelman must produce like he did against Houston when Wes Welker was lost for the season. The running game must produce now that Fred Taylor is back and control the clock.

Why they won’t win: The offensive line hasn’t been protecting very well on the flanks and the Ravens can rush the passer. If Brady can’t buy any time to throw deep to Randy Moss, that gaudy 8-0 record this season at Gillette Stadium will mean nothing now.

3. New York Jets (actual seed: 5)

Everyone says the Jets don’t really belong in the playoffs because the Colts opted to bench Peyton Manning and their starters in that ridiculous Week 16 decision to bypass a perfect season. But this team is very hungry and the defense is ranked No. 1 in the NFL, which is a legitimate postseason credential if I ever saw one.

Yes, quarterback Mark Sanchez has turned into a game manager, but he also hasn’t thrown an interception in two straight games.

How they could win: They may have the best wildcat quarterback in the league in Brad Smith, who rushed for 92 yards and a touchdown against the Bengals. The week before he returned a kickoff 101 yards against the Colts. The offensive line is built to run block and Thomas Jones can pound any team into submission.

Why they won’t win: Rookie head coach Rex Ryan has made some serious in-game gaffes this season and doesn’t manage the clock very well. Also, you figure Sanchez will crumble when there’s real playoff pressure to produce.

2. Indianapolis Colts (actual seed: 1)

It’s always difficult to get a read on this team when they spend the final games of the season not playing to win. Twice they have been eliminated early in the playoffs (2005 and 2007) when they opt for such a momentum changer.

Knowing the fans are unhappy, Peyton Manning implored them to be on their side in two weeks. With all his millions, he should have personally offered a refund to buy their love.

How they could win: Manning catches fire once again, with Reggie Wayne and Dallas Clark catching everything in sight. This team did win 23 straight regular-season games before taking a seat against the Jets. The defense has the pass rush and rookie cornerback Jerraud Powers can cover just about anybody.

Why they won’t win: We expect them to be hosting the AFC title game, but the Chargers have beaten them two straight in the playoffs and San Diego is in their heads. That’s never a good sign; you can’t be worrying about the past.

1. San Diego Chargers (actual seed: 2)

The Chargers are on a roll, winners of 11 straight. Philip Rivers has thrown a touchdown pass in 12 consecutive games and handles the pass rush as well as any quarterback in the league. He’s utterly fearless in the pocket. Vincent Jackson and Antonio Gates are playing at All-Pro levels and the offensive line is getting healthier.

LaDainian Tomlinson has slowed a bit, but the running game remains a factor, which makes play-action deadly.

Why they may not win: The Chargers have been playing musical defensive linemen ever since the loss of Jamal Williams and power running teams can gash them. They catch a break, though, because few of the top contenders love to run, run, run.

Why they will win: I don’t know whether it was the win in Denver or not, but this team respects Norv Turner and believes in him. He’s a big-game play-caller and he’s held this team together through the injury-filled rough patches. Plus, kicker Nate Kaeding will be automatic in the clutch, and from any distance.