It seems the only way to get into the Super Bowl from the AFC is if your team is quarterbacked by Tom Brady, Peyton Manning or Ben Roethlisberger.
Those quarterbacks’ teams have gone to the Super Bowl in 12 of the past 13 seasons, with the 2012 Ravens and Joe Flacco being the only outlier.
Manning has retired, but Brady and Roethlisberger’s teams are once again contenders in the AFC. Here’s a look at three teams that could face the NFC champion in Houston in February.
New England: So what if Tom Brady misses the first four games of the season? The Patriots are still set up to win the AFC East yet again not only because they’re the best team, but also because the division stinks.
The Patriots will get by with Jimmy Garoppolo, then Brady will return and look like he did in the third exhibition against the Panthers.
New England has been in the AFC title game each of the past five seasons, and it’s likely there will be a sixth this season.
Pittsburgh: The Steelers had some trouble with injuries last year. This year they’re healthy, but off-the-field problems are starting to hurt them.
Le’Veon Bell is suspended for the first three games and receiver Martavis Bryant is out for the year because of drug-related offenses. Roethlisberger still has DeAngelo Williams in the backfield and Antonio Brown on the outside.
No team has won more Super Bowls than Pittsburgh, which owns six Lombardi Trophies. Roethlisberger has won two of those at quarterback, and he’s eyeing a third.
Kansas City: Here’s a dark horse in a tough division. The Oakland Raiders could be very good this season with young quarterback Derek Carr, and Denver’s defense will keep the Broncos in every game this year.
Kansas City running back Jamaal Charles averages 5.5 yards per carry in his career, which is good for fourth all-time in league history. Quarterback Alex Smith, meanwhile, gets 6.7 yards per passing attempt.
Still, the Chiefs have a great defense and a great coach in Andy Reid. In 17 years of coaching, Reid has missed the playoffs in just six seasons and he’s coached in five conference title games.