The AFC Play Off Picture
Arguably the Raiders should be in here but more on that in the next section. The Patriots have enough of a buffer over the Dolphins in the division and could even clinch a first round bye this weekend. The loss of Rob Gronkowski may have opened up the AFC, but the Patriots will once again win the East and will be the favourites to represent the conference in the Super Bowl.
The Almost Definitely In But I Can’t Quite Call It A Lock
Raiders and Chiefs (pre-TNF)
The Raiders currently lead the conference and while they are almost certain to make the postseason for the first time since 2002, they are not out of the woods. It’s possible that they could lose all of their remaining games. They are on the road at the Chiefs, Chargers and Broncos and home to a resurgent Colts. The story isn’t too different for the Chiefs but they have more home games.
It would be a surprise if they aren’t both in the playoffs, but it isn’t unthinkable that either team could slip up and let the chasing teams in.
The Wild Card Contenders
Broncos, Dolphins, Ravens, Steelers, Bills
With the Raiders or Chiefs probably taking up one of the AFC’s wildcard spots it leaves just one more to go around. Of course, one of the Ravens or Steelers will make it in as division winners and that could hinge on the week 16 match-up between the two teams.
That leaves four teams fighting for one spot. The Broncos are in the driver’s seat but with a tough four game stretch to end the season and quarterback issues they may fall away.
A win this week for Miami against Arizona may well make them favourites to sneak in and take the sixth seed. Their six game win streak came to an abrupt end last week but they have shown they can put it together and get going. Games against the Jets and a Patriots team in week 17 that may already have locked up a bye could give them the easiest path to the postseason.
Buffalo’s hopes may well end this week when they face the Steelers but a win in that one could set up a huge game with Miami in week 16. With games against the Browns and Jets to come, you can’t rule out a late surge from the Bills.
Then we come to the runner up in the North. The best that team will be able to do is reach 10 wins. The Steelers look favourites to take the division thanks to a considerably easier schedule. These two teams will play in a few weeks and then the Bills, Bengals and Browns are the other three games and they will be favourites for those. Baltimore still needs to play the Patriots, Eagles and Bengals. A win this week against the Pats could be key for a Ravens team that many are picking as a dark horse for the Super Bowl.
One of Them Has To Get In
Texans, Colts, Titans
None of these teams look set to challenge for a wildcard spot, or at least not the runners-up in the division. The Texans looked like the early favourites but struggles from Brock Osweiler and the Titans and Colts seemingly finding their form at the right time may well make them the outsider for this.
Houston still has to play both of the other teams and those games could well decide the division. If they can win them both then they will most likely win the South.
The Colts and Texans both got off to rocky starts but have started to string some wins together. Andrew Luck and Marcus Mariota are both playing very well but at their best, Luck is on a different level to the Titans QB. If the Colts are going to make it in then it will be because their quarterback has dragged them there.
It may not be the best quality play but this one could be the most intriguing story down the stretch in the AFC.
You Can Start Booking Things for January
Chargers, Bengals, Jets, Jaguars, Browns
Not much really needs to be said does it? The Chargers are just too far back now after last week’s loss to Tampa and the other’s seasons have all been dead for a while now. The only thing interesting left for these teams is if the Browns can get a win somewhere.