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Hard Count Episode 18-10: AFC surprises and Mark Duffner’s defense

Thoughts and opinions from Week 6 in the NFL

Kansas City Chiefs v New England Patriots Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images

The NFL has been full of surprises this season, and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers may have pulled off one of the bigger staff moves by firing defensive coordinator following his team’s loss to the Atlanta Falcons.

Things are only going to heat up from here as we have a lot of good football to look forward to, but here are my observations after Week 6 of the NFL’s regular season.

OFFSIDES: The Chiefs are the Super Bowl favorites out of the AFC.

Kansas City Chiefs v New England Patriots Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images

I’m not alone in saying this coming into the Sunday Night Football matchup between the Kansas City Chiefs and New England Patriots.

In fact, I was so confident the Chiefs would win in Foxboro and stake their claim as the next challenger for the AFC throne I picked them in our weekly game picks.

Alas, I was wrong. But man, I don’t know if I’ve ever had more fun watching myself be wrong before in my life!

However, I will say this. As happy as Patriots fans have to be coming out of Week 6 with the win, they cannot be comfortable.

Granted, if New England gets their way, the next time they see this team it’ll be a lot colder and there’ll be slippery white stuff on the ground which will not help Mahomes’ game whatsoever.

Still, the younger and sexier Chiefs are coming for the crown Tom Brady. They may not have knocked it off completely just yet, but they’re close.

FALSE START: The AFC South is going to be much improved in 2018.

Indianapolis Colts v New England Patriots Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images

Andrew Luck is coming back! Deshaun Watson is coming back! The Titans were a playoff team! The Jaguars almost - and should have - made it to the Super Bowl! The reign of the AFC South is about to begin!

Not so fast.

Six weeks in and the division leading Tennessee Titans have an impressive record of 3-3 and have lost two in a row. Oh, and Marcus Mariota looks worse than ever.

Luck is back, and not having much of it as his Colts have wobbled their way to a 1-5 record.

The Jags, well, just got smoked by the Dallas Cowboys and their elite offense consisting of Ezekiel Elliott, Dak Prescott and Connor McGregor?

Houston has a lot of problems, but their the only team in the division not on a losing streak. In fact, they’ve won three in a row.

This was the year the AFC North was supposed to unseat the AFC West as the conference’s most competitive division from top to bottom. Nobody thought it’d be because they’d all play down to each other though.

FREE PLAY: Mark Duffner takes over as Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive coordinator.

NFL: Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Atlanta Falcons Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

There are 32 defensive coordinator positions in the NFL. Getting one is a rare opportunity. Getting another is even tougher.

Mark Duffner is getting his third crack at being an NFL defensive coordinator seventeen seasons after his last chance when he was the DC for the Cincinnati Bengals from 2001-2002.

So, what should we expect? We have no idea!

It’s been seventeen years since Duffner was a defensive coordinator. Seventeen years ago today, I was nineteen. I have forgotten more stuff I’ve learned about life in general than I knew at that stage of my life.

However, for the fun of it, I did go back and watch Duffner’s Bengals to see what his defense looked like back then. And it just so happened he played against an opponent near and dear to my heart. The 2001-2002 Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

What I saw was plenty of blitzing coming out of the Bengals’ four-man front. Plenty of zone and man coverage with the safeties playing a bit more aggressively than Bucs fans are used to seeing as of late.

In 2001, Cincinnati had the 14th ranked team in the NFL in opponent scoring and allowed the twelfth fewest yards passing on the year.

Had the Bengals not had one of the worst offenses that season, it’s possible the team would have made the playoffs.

Cincinnati was able to come out on top of the Bucs in their 2001 contest and we all know what happened the next season for Tampa Bay.

The team site has more on Duffner as fans anxiously await the debut of what everyone hopes will be a more effective defensive unit.

Football has changed quite a bit since the last time Duffner steered the ship for an NFL defense, but if his history is any indicator, we might expect to at least see a more aggressive scheme than we have up to this point.