The two NFL conferences have contrasting playoff races during the 2021 season.
There’s some order in the National Football Conference (NFC) with the top contenders creating distance from the rest of the pack.
In contrast, the American Football Conference (AFC) is chaotic as 12 of the 16 teams still have a solid chance of clinching one of the seven postseason spots.
To highlight the tight race, only three games separate the top seed from the 12th-ranked team.
12 teams are vying for 7 playoff spots in the AFC. 🙌
Drop your playoff predictions below! ⬇️ pic.twitter.com/S5NGNLWrRQ
— Sunday Night Football on NBC (@SNFonNBC) November 22, 2021
Therefore, those spots will constantly jumble until Week 18.
The AFC playoff race will likely boil down to that last set of games wherein some teams will rely on outcomes beyond their control to make it to the top seven.
But amidst the free for all, the New England Patriots are looking like the frontrunners in the conference.
Arguments Against The Other AFC Teams
The Patriots are always systematic, whether they score 20 or 40 points.
Head coach Bill Belichick always reminds them to do their job even if it doesn’t look glamorous.
They may not be a spring well of highlights, but they always have a chance to win.
New England has the most complete roster out of all AFC contenders.
“I think we like coming down to the ATL.”
Awww yeah 🎉 pic.twitter.com/TINxC8c6ub
— New England Patriots (@Patriots) November 20, 2021
The Tennessee Titans lost their primary offensive weapon in Derrick Henry, which contributed to their surprising defeat versus the Houston Texans.
Meanwhile, the Baltimore Ravens have a respectable defense, but their offense can fall into scoring droughts if their run game does not dominate.
Likewise, the Kansas City Chiefs look rejuvenated, but their defense still has concerns, especially in the secondary.
The Cincinnati Bengals, Los Angeles Chargers, Buffalo Bills, Pittsburgh Steelers, and Las Vegas Raiders are inconsistent.
How Patriots fans are feeling being 1st in the AFC East again pic.twitter.com/m3raPNfb2g
— Boston Diehards (@Boston_Diehards) November 21, 2021
Finally, the Cleveland Browns and Indianapolis Colts struggle when their run game gets shut down.
In contrast, the Patriots are peaking at the right time, winning five consecutive games and taking the top spot in the AFC East.
Their philosophy involves maximizing their opportunities and disrupting the opponent’s drives.
Mac Jones Doesn’t Have Stage Fright
He’s not a flashy quarterback, but he’s showing poise and mental toughness, even if he’s just a rookie.
Throughout their five-game win streak, Jones manifested his ability to make the right decisions.
Mac Jones has the confidence & poise of a veteran quarterback.. HOW DID HE LAND RIGHT IN BILL BELICHICK'S LAP?? pic.twitter.com/UhIvZvU8sL
— Pat McAfee (@PatMcAfeeShow) November 19, 2021
No wonder it isn’t shocking that he completed over 80 percent of his passes during their last two victories.
Against the Browns and the Atlanta Falcons, the former Alabama standout completed 41 of 49 passes for 405 yards and four touchdowns.
Patriots Defense Is Elite
It took time before the Patriots defense played like a cohesive unit.
But they were dangerous when they finally performed to Belichick’s expectations.
They are surrendering a measly ten points per game during their win streak and gave up 13 total points in their three most recent games.
As always, a Belichick defense will have key players in every layer.
THIS DEFENSE 😤 pic.twitter.com/0OSuB6kQsZ
— New England Patriots (@Patriots) November 19, 2021
Meanwhile, Matthew Judon and Kyle Van Noy bring the pressure from the linebacker positions.
Opponents don’t stand a chance if they all perform at a high level.
Next Four Weeks Are Critical
While the Patriots are riding high, their next four games will be stiff challenges.
Their two games against the Bills might decide the AFC East winners.
The Patriots will also be facing the Titans and the Colts.
— New England Patriots (@Patriots) November 21, 2021
Those games are not walks to the park, and Belichick will try to outsmart his counterparts.
Finally, they end their regular season against the Jacksonville Jaguars and the Miami Dolphins.
Maintaining their current standard will help them breeze through these games.
That momentum may help them reach Super Bowl LVI.