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AFC power rankings: The Patriots pound Pittsburgh to take the top spot

Tom Brady

(Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

Every week during the NFL season, will present our conference power rankings. The AFC will be on Tuesday, the NFC on Wednesday.

We begin in the AFC by admitting that the New England Patriots are pretty damn good.

1). New England Patriots

Hard to believe the Patriots could beat the Pittsburgh Steelers by 30 points without Antonio Brown, the greatest player in NFL history. The Patriots usually get off to slow starts before the momentum builds. Not this season; they play the Miami Dolphins on Sunday. We figure the AFC Championship game will be played at Gillette Stadium again.

2). Kansas City Chiefs

Say what you will about the Jacksonville Jaguars, but putting up 40 points against that defense isn’t easy. If possible, the Chiefs offense may be better than ever, even if Tyreek Hill is out for a few weeks with his clavicle injury. Can you imagine how much money Pat Mahomes will make in a few years?

3). Los Angeles Chargers

Melvin Gordon says he’ll rejoin the team at some point between weeks 6 and 8. That’s such a kind gesture. But we’re betting the next time Austin Ekeler (154 all-purpose yards) breaks a tackle, Gordon’s on the first Uber headed to Los Angeles.

4) Baltimore Ravens

Raise your hand if you thought Lamar Jackson would be the first NFL quarterback since Peyton Manning to throw five TD passes in a season-opener? There’s no reason to worry any more about Jackson stressing his body with 20 carries a game as long as his arm mimics a bazooka.

5). Tennessee Titans

You tend to overlook the Titans because they are so hard to watch at times. They also have the worst uniforms in the NFL. But looks are sometimes deceiving. The 43-13 beating they laid on the Cleveland Browns provides all we need to know about their seriousness to be a playoff contender.

Deshaun Watson

(Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

6). Houston Texans

How in the world does a defensive coordinator call for a scheme that leaves the middle of the field open, knowing all Drew Brees needs is nine yards to get into position for a last-second field goal to win the game? How disrespectful of Deshaun Watson, who was brilliant.

7). Oakland Raiders

It’s just like we’ve been saying –  great players are born every day. Who knew that Tyrell Williams would so seamlessly step into the role vacated by you know who. Derek Carr looked great, completing 22-of-26 for 259 yards. The Raiders might be pretty good – knock on wood if you are with us.

8). Buffalo Bills

We have our doubts Buffalo’s offense will be good enough to truly pose a threat to the Patriots in the AFC East. But its defense is stellar and it was central to its ability to wipe out a 16-point lead in the second half to beat the New York Jets. The Bills will hit you.

9). Indianapolis Colts

By the time Adam Vinatieri is inducted into the Hall of Fame all memory of his performance in the 2019 season opener will have vanished. The best kicker in league history missed two field goals and an extra point, which prevented the Colts from beating the Chargers. Hey, it happens.

10). Cincinnati Bengals

Rookie coach Zac Taylor has a boyish look about him. But he must be extremely charismatic because the Bengals put on a show in Seattle that was very un-Marvin Lewis like. They were competitive, holding the Seahawks to 233 yards and getting 418 out of Andy Dalton.

11). Pittsburgh Steelers

We choose to believe Sunday’s loss to the Patriots was an aberration, that the Steelers are still the team to beat in the AFC North. Still, there is no excuse for what happened, for gaining only 87 yards in the first half. If they don’t shape up, look for Mike Tomlin to be shipped out at season’s end.

Nick Foles

(Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)

12). Jacksonville Jaguars

After deciding to build their team around Nick Foles, the Jags lost him until probably November in the first half against the Chiefs. The team is now in Gardner Minshew’s hands. But the Jags have bigger problems. Their defense is undisciplined and not as good as everyone believes.

13). New York Jets

Can someone please tell us why NFL teams are so averse to paying kickers? The Jets let a good one (Jason Myers) get away and eventually replaced him with Kaare Vedvik. Kaare Vedvik? You mean the guy who missed a PAT and field goal in a 17-16 loss to the Bills?

14). Denver Broncos

The Broncos defense was supposed to be impenetrable with Vic Fangio as their head coach. And yet, they didn’t get any sacks in the opener against the Raiders. That is unacceptable. And anyone who thinks Joe Flacco is the answer at QB didn’t see what Ravens coach John Harbaugh did last season. He has the foot speed of a refrigerator.

15). Cleveland Browns

There are two ways to look at what happened to them on Sunday. Either they were overhyped or they were overhyped.  Baker Mayfield threw three interceptions in the fourth quarter and Odell Beckham wore a designer watch (retails around $190,000) onto the field. What a bunch of goofballs.

16). Miami Dolphins

Sunday’s 59-10 loss to the Baltimore Ravens wasn’t as bad as it could have been. In 1973, the Saints lost their opener to Atlanta 62-7. We can hear it now: “With the first pick in the 2020 Draft, the Dolphins select QB Tua Tagavailoa from the University of Alabama.”