I have a friend that always rags on me in stating the AFC is a much, much weaker conference than its NFC counterpart. His philosophy — which I always jokingly tell him he’s biased because he’s a Dallas Cowboys fan — is New England’s dominance and how over the past 15 years or so, elite QBs such as Tom Brady, Peyton Manning and Ben Roethlisberger have been the only ones leading teams to the Super Bowl out of that conference. In this, Joe Flacco’s miracle Super Bowl run with Baltimore would be the lone exception.
He then argues there’s more competition and parity in the NFC with different teams making the Super Bowl each year, to which I respond the reason for the parity is because those teams are actually weak and can’t be dominant.
However, in looking at the standings this year, my friend does have a point. The AFC is mediocre at best. It’s a big box of bland macaroni and cheese. We’ve got the Patriots and the Chiefs, undefeated at 4-0 each and far and away the conference favorites. Then we’ve got more mediocrity than former head coach Jeff Fisher.
In the AFC South, we’ve got all four teams — Jacksonville, Houston, Indianapolis and Tennessee — at 2-2. I guess the divisional race will at least be exciting, right?
For the AFC North, it’s much of the same. Baltimore and Cleveland are both 2-2. Then Pittsburgh got on the board on Monday night with a beatdown of rival Cincinnati to move to 1-3, while Cincy dropped to 0-4.
Minus the Chiefs, the AFC west has Oakland and Los Angeles (aka the team formerly residing in San Diego) at 2-2 and those Flacco-led Broncos holding up the rear at 0-4.
The AFC East has an 0-3 New York Jets team that’s been devastated by its QB Sam Darnold getting mononucleosis and an 0-4 Miami Dolphins team that was waiving the white flag before the season even began.
The only other non .500 or less team other than Kansas City and New England?
The Buffalo Bills, who sit at 3-1 and gave the Patriots a run in the second half before QB Josh Allen got knocked out — literally — of the game and lost by a 16-10 final. I always like when the Bills are in contention, as I’ve felt bad for them as a kid whenever they made it four years in a row to the Super Bowl, only to end up on the losing side each time.
But yeah, while there only three teams at 3-1 or better in the AFC, there’s seven teams that can say that in the NFC — Dallas, San Francisco, Seattle, Los Angeles, Green Bay, Chicago and New Orleans. It’s looking like an AFC wild card team will be 9-7 or even worse. Time will tell.
Speaking of mediocrity, my picks were horrendous last week. I went 2-8 — one of my studs didn’t even play and most of my duds absolutely scorched the earth — and fell to 14-16 on the year. I mean I can’t get much worse than I did last week ... Onto the picks ...
Kirk Cousins, QB, Minnesota Vikings. Things have been tough through the air attack in Minnesota this year, with wideout Adam Thielen saying after last week that “you have to be able to throw the ball.” Ok then. Cousins has been nothing short of awful this year. However, with all of the naysayers dogging him this week and facing a suspect Giants secondary, I won’t be surprised if they make it a point to get him going. Would I start him in fantasy? Probably not, but consider him a dark horse if you will.
Courtland Sutton, WR, Denver Broncos. The sophomore wideout has scored double-digit fantasy points in three out of four games this season, including last week’s six receptions for 62 yards and two TD performance. He’s currently WR15 on the year and needs to be in lineups, regardless of how Flacco is performing.
Cole Beasley, WR, Buffalo Bills. The former Dallas Cowboy has been peppered with double-digit targets over the past two weeks.
In standard scoring, half point PPR leagues, Beasley has scored 10, 10 and 10.5 over the past three weeks. That’s good enough for a flex starting spot. While his ceiling isn’t very high, at least he consistently gets looks. Expect much of the same against Tennessee.
Jaylen Samuels, RB, Pittsburgh Steelers. Pittsburgh’s game plan against the Bengals Monday was to keep the proverbial training wheels on QB Mason Rudolph and utilize about a million short passes to fellow RB James Conner and Samuels, with Samuels even running the wildcat formation — a formation that was a thing back when George W. Bush was still president. With the rival Ravens coming to Heinz Field Sunday, I think they’ll keep the training wheels on Rudolph and do much of the same, giving Samuels decent value and a double-digit points day.
Jimmy Graham, TE, Green Bay Packers. It’s been feast of famine for the former fantasy stud. In two games this year, he’s scored two TDs. In the other two, he’s had as many receptions as you and I. So what’s on the docket for this week? Let’s go with heavy involvement against the Cowboys as he’s coming off a week of six receptions for 61 yards and a score.
Dak Prescott, QB, Dallas Cowboys. The Cowboys are facing the Packers this week — a team that’s given up the second fewest fantasy points to QBs on the year. Prescott scored a mere six points last week against the Saints and I don’t things will get much better this week, even though the Cowboys offense has been quite potent minus that game.
Brandin Cooks, WR, Los Angeles Rams. Cooks was once the number one WR option in the high-powered Rams offense. You could make the case now that he’s third on the pecking order behind Cooper Kupp and Robert Woods. Against a better than average Seattle defense tonight, I think the Rams will spread the wealth around and hold Cooks to single-digit fantasy points.
Sammy Watkins, WR, Kansas City Chiefs. The former Clemson star is on his third NFL team for a reason — inconsistency. Watkins went off in Week 1 but has put up single-digit numbers since then. Expect Pat Mahomes to spread the ball around once again against the Colts Sunday night and I think Watkins takes a back seat.
Le’Veon Bell, RB, New York Jets. He was a dud of mine a couple weeks ago and coming out of the team’s bye week, he’s still going to be with Darnold out yet.
Until he comes back, you might even have to bench Bell if you have a better option.
Delanie Walker, TE, Tennessee Titans. Walker is another player struggling on the season due to shoddy QB play, as Marcus Mariota has been quite bad this season for the most part. Last week’s game saw him grab one reception for four yards. They take on a Buffalo team that shut down New England’s offense last week for the majority of the game. If they can do that against the Patriots, they can surely do that against the Titans.