AFC Playoffs 2023-24

Share

By Rockin’ Reese

The regular season has ended & the playoffs are just hours away. The 7 lucky teams who qualified for the AFC playoffs will be ready for all-out war to see who will hold the Lamar Hunt Trophy & head to Super Bowl 58 in Las Vegas, Nevada.

By achieving a 13-4 record (which was this season’s best record in the NFL), the (AFC North Champion) Baltimore Ravens earned the #1 seed in the AFC playoffs, which gives them home field advantage. The stellar play of (quarterback) Lamar Jackson has many people feeling that he will be the MVP for the 2023-24 NFL season. Jackson threw 24 touchdown passes & had 5 touchdown runs. While he only threw 7 interceptions, Jackson was sacked 37 times…the 2nd most in his career. Jackson may lead the team in rushing yards (821), but (running back) Gus Edwards leads the team in rushing touchdowns (13). In the receiving core, (wide receiver) Zay Flowers has had a standout rookie season, with 77 catches (5 of them being for touchdowns) for 858 yards. Also, (tight end) Isaiah Likely contributed 5 touchdown catches. Likely had filled in for (tight end) Mark Andrews, who led the team with 6 touchdowns before he was injured in a game against the Cincinnati Bengals.

Let’s not forget that vaunted defense of the Ravens. Any opponent has the ball was most likely tackled by (linebackers) Roquan Smith & Patrick Queen. Smith led the team with 158 tackles, but he & Queen tied for solo tackles, as they both had 84. When it comes to opposing quarterbacks being sacked, odds are that (defensive lineman) Justin Madubuike and (linebackers) Jadeveon Clowney & Kyle Van Noy were responsible. Madubuike led the team with 13 sacks. Clowney had 9 1/2. Van Noy had 9. Don’t throw a ball near (safety) Geno Stone. He had 7 interceptions, but (safety) Kyle Hamilton was the only Ravens player to return an interception for a touchdown. 
As for special teams, (kicker) Justin Tucker made 32 out of 37 field goals & 51 out of 52 extra points, this season.  With (wide receiver) Devin Duvernay injured, kickoff returns were handled by (running back) Justice Hill, while punts were handled by (wide receiver) Tylan Wallace. In a game against the Los Angeles Rams, Wallace scored an overtime punt return for a touchdown. That was the only special teams touchdown for the Ravens, this season.

AFC

The #2 seed is the (AFC East Champions) Buffalo Bills. They were on the outside looking in, but thanks to the Jacksonville Jaguars losing, they clinched a playoff berth. Then, by going to Miami & defeating the Dolphins in the final game of the season, they won the division. As usual, they’re led by (quarterback) Josh Allen, who threw 29 touchdown passes & had 15 touchdown runs, but threw 18 interceptions & was sacked 24 times. With a team-high 237 runs for 1,122 yards, (running back) James Cook has been the workhorse on the ground. The receiving core’s top gun is (wide receiver) Stefon Diggs, who leads the team in catches (107), yards (1,183) & touchdowns (he had 8 of them).

Defensively, (linebacker) Terrel Bernard is the man to bring opponents down, as he had 143 tackles (84 of them solo). The sack master for the team is (defensive lineman) Leonard Floyd with 10 1/2 sacks. Watch out for (cornerback) Rasul Douglas. He had 4 interceptions, including one returned for a touchdown. He & (defensive lineman) AJ Epenesa were the only Bills players with a “pick 6”.
As for special teams, (kicker) Tyler Bass made 24 out of 29 field goals & 49 out of 50 extra points. While the kickoffs have been “by committee”, the punts were mostly handled by (wide receiver) Deonte Harty, who scored a touchdown in last Sunday’s AFC East Championship victory over the Dolphins.

The #3 seed is the (AFC West Champion) Kansas City Chiefs. This was a tumultuous year for the defending Super Bowl Champions. However, the Chiefs are still a threat, because of (quarterback) Patrick Mahomes. The 2-time NFL MVP & 2-time Super Bowl MVP threw 41 touchdown passes & had 4 touchdown runs, while only throwing 12 interceptions & being sacked 26 times. The leading rusher was (running back) Isiah Pacheco, who ran 170 times for 830 yards & had 5 touchdowns. Despite his highly-publicized relationship with (pop star) Taylor Swift, (tight end) Travis Kelce led Kansas City’s receiving core with 110 catches, 1,338 yards, & 12 touchdowns.
On the defensive side of the ball, (linebacker) Nick Bolton led the team in tackles with 180 (108 of them being solo). With 15 1/2 sacks, (defensive lineman) Chris Jones was the sack king from the Red Kingdom. While (cornerback) L’Jarius Sneed led the team with 3 interceptions, (linebacker) Willie Gay & (cornerback) Jaylen Watson returned their only interceptions for touchdowns.

When it comes to special teams, (kicker) Harrison butker made 33 out of 35 field goals & all 38 of his extra point attempts. Pacheco primarily handled kickoff returns, while (wide receiver) Kadarius Toney  handled punt returns, after (wide receiver) Skyy Moore was injured.

AFC

The #4 seed is the (AFC South Champion) Houston Texans. They were the comeback kids of the season. After 3 seasons of 12 or more losses, they won the AFC South, despite an 0-2 start to start the season and between them, the Jacksonville Jaguars, & the Indianapolis Colts, having the worst odds (going into week 18) of making the playoffs, much less win the division. Even though he missed 2 games with a concussion, (quarterback) CJ Stroud had quite the rookie season. He threw 23 touchdown passes & had 3 touchdown runs. While he only threw 5 interceptions, he was sacked 38 times. In the running game, (running back) Devin Singletary had been working, with 216 runs for 898 yards & 4 touchdowns. In the receiving game, (wide receiver) Nico Collins was a boss, with 80 catches for 1,297 yards & 8 touchdowns.

As far as the defense went, (linebacker) Blake Cashman was bringing opponents down, as he had 106 tackles (56 solos) on the season. Houston’s quarterback hunter was (defensive lineman) Jonathan Greenard with 12 1/2 sacks. The man quarterbacks tried to avoid throwing near was (cornerback) Derek Stingley Jr., who had 5 interceptions.
As for special teams, (kicker) Kai Fairbairn made 27 out of 28 field goals & 21 out of 22 extra points. As kickoff & punt returns, they were “by committee”. However, the Texans had a rarity…(running backs) Andrew Beck & Dameon Price scored kickoff returns for touchdowns.

AFC

The #5 seed is the Cleveland Browns. They had a lot of quarterback issues (especially with Deshaun Watson & Dorian Thompson-Robinson being hurt), but (Super Bowl 47 MVP) Joe Flacco saved the day. He threw for 13 touchdowns, but his interceptions & sacks were only 8. The rushing attack was from (running backs) Jerome Ford & Kareem Hunt. Ford led the team with runs (204) & yards (813), but Hunt led with touchdown runs (9). The receiving core has another 2-headed monster. They were (tight end) David Njoku, who had 81 catches for 882 yards & 6 touchdowns, and (wide receiver) Amari Cooper, who had 72 catches for 1,250 yards & 5 touchdowns.
The “Dawg Pound” defense had (linebacker) Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah lead the team in tackles, with 101 (inlcuding 72 solos). To nobody’s surprise, (defensive lineman) Myles Garrett led the team in sacks, adding 14 tombstones to his  graveyard. Biting the opposition was (cornerback) Martin Emerson, who led the team with 4 interceptions. However, (safety) Ronnie Hickman Jr. returned his only interception for a touchdown, while (cornerback) Greg Newsome II returned 1 of his 2 interceptions for a “pick 6”.

As for special teams, (kicker) Dustin Hopkins made 33 out of 36 field goals & 24 out of 26 extra points. The kickoffs were mostly done by (wide receiver) James Proche II, whiel (running back) Pierre Strong Jr. handled the punt returns.

The #6 seed is the Miami Dolphins. This team had a chance to be the AFC East Champions & either the #1 or #2 seed in the AFC playoffs, but neither happened. However, they’re still in the playoffs, because of their great start in the beginning of the season. This talented rosters begins with (quarterback) Tua Tagovailoa. He threw 29 touchdowns, but he also threw 14 interceptions & was sacked 29 times. Tearing it up on the ground is (running back) Raheem Mostert. He had 209 runs for 1,012 yards & 18 touchdowns. Leaving defenders in the dust is (wide receiver) Tyreek Hill. He had 119 catches for 1,799 yards & 13 touchdowns.

On defense, (linebacker) David Long Jr.  led the team with 113 tackles (64 solo). While (linebacker) Bradley Chubb injured, (defensive lineman) Zach Sieler stepped up with 10 sacks. Opposing teams try not to throw near (cornerback) Jalen Ramsey, as he had 3 interceptions. However, (injured linebackers) Andrew Van Ginkel & Bradley Chubb and (safety) Jevon Holland returned interceptions for touchdowns. 
Special teams in South Beach saw (kicker) Jason Sanders make 24 out of 28 field goals & 58 out of 59 extra points. The kickoff returns & punt returns were handled by (wide receiver) Braxton Berrios.

The #7 seed is the Pittsburgh Steelers. This team struggled to find an offensive, especially from quarterbacks, like Kenny Pickett & Mitch Trubisky. While he hasn’t been that effective, Mason Rudolph did contribute to the 3-game winning streak that the Steelers are on, which they needed to have any chance of being in the playoffs. The black & gold express for this season is (running back) Najee Harris. He had 255 runs for 1,035 yards & 8 touchdowns. Despite some drama, (wide receivers) George Pickens & Diontae Johnson led the team with 5 touchdowns. Pickens had 63 catches for 1,140 yards. Johnson had 51 catches for 717 yards.

Among the black & gold bruisers of Pittsbrugh’s defense is (linebacker) Elandon Roberts, who led the team with 101 tackles (68 of them being solo). Though the injured (linebacker) TJ Watt led the team in sacks (19), (linebacker) Alex Hghsmith stepped up with 7. Highsmith is among 4 Steelers with 2 interceptions, but he had the only one returned for a touchdown.

For Steeler special teams, (kicker) Chris Boswell made 29 out of 31 field goals & 27 out of 28 extra points. The kickoff returns were “by committee”, but the punt returns are usually handled by (wide receiver) Calvin Austin III.

Now, we’ve looked at all 7 AFC playoff teams. The question is which one will contend for the Lombardi Trophy on February 11th? We start getting some answers, this weekend.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *