1 – New England Patriots (11-3)
2 – Pittsburgh Steelers (11-3)
3 – Jacksonville Jaguars (10-4)
4 – Kansas City Chiefs (8-6)
5 – Tennessee Titans (8-6)
6 – Buffalo Bills (8-6)
7 – Baltimore Ravens (8-6)
8 – Los Angeles Chargers (7-7)
9 – Oakland Raiders (6-8)
10 – Miami Dolphins (6-8)
After reviewing the NFC playoff picture and predicting how things will look in two weeks, I’ll now review the AFC playoff picture. The top of the AFC has a little more certainty than the bottom half. The Patriots, Steelers, and Jaguars have all secured a spot in the playoffs, leaving only 3 spots open. There are 7 teams fighting for those 3 open spots. Realistically, only 5 of those teams have a shot, but the two teams at the bottom are still alive for now.
No AFC team has secured a first round bye just yet. The Jaguars are only one game behind the Steelers and Patriots, meaning one slip up by those two teams could force them to play an extra playoff game. It will be interesting to see which of the top 3 teams secure a first round bye, but I’m more interested in what’s going to happen with those last 3 playoff spots. Let’s take a look at what each of these teams have left on their schedules and what they have to do to secure their spot in the playoffs.
New England Patriots (11-3)
Guess what, the Patriots are at home for their final two games of the season. They’re on top of the conference right now, and they have the Bills and Jets left to play. These two teams are teams they’ve already beaten this season, both on the road. The Patriots already have the advantage because they’re the Patriots, but being at home makes that advantage so much bigger. I have the Patriots winning out and securing themselves a first round bye and home field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs.
Pittsburgh Steelers (11-3)
Pittsburgh should be thankful they have one of the easiest remaining schedules. This week they take on the Texans, and then they finish up by playing the Browns. You couldn’t ask for a much easier two remaining games. This is perfect for the Steelers, especially at a time when they’re without their best player in Antonio Brown. Just like the Patriots, the Steelers win out and secure a first round bye. Could have been home field if it wasn’t for a rule we don’t understand.
Jacksonville Jaguars (10-4)
I’m just going to go ahead and lock the Jaguars in to the number 3 spot right now. With the Patriots and Steelers winning out, they can’t get higher than third. With one more win, the Jaguars lock up number 3. They play the 49ers this week, so there’s the win. It won’t matter what happens against the Titans. I think the Jaguars will win that game too, just so they can keep a division rival out of the playoffs and possibly avoid playing them again.
Kansas City Chiefs (8-6)
The Chiefs have been up and down this year. They started hot, then went cold, and are now winners of two straight. The Dolphins and Broncos have bad records, but I wouldn’t say they’re going to be easy wins by any means. I have the Chiefs beating the Dolphins, but I think Kansas City might drop their last game to the Broncos. At 9-7, the Chiefs will win their division because they own the tiebreaker over the Chargers. 4 seed locked up.
Tennessee Titans (8-6)
This one is pretty easy. I’ve already predicted the Titans losing to the Rams in my earlier post, “Predicting the Final NFC Playoff Picture.” I’ve also got the Titans losing their last game to the Jaguars. With both losses, that’s going to put the Titans at 8-8, which isn’t good enough to make the playoffs this year. The Titans have been playing poorly lately and it’s going to continue.
Buffalo Bills (8-6)
For the Bills to get into the playoffs, they have to win at least one of their remaining games. That’s a problem for the Bills because they have to play the Patriots, who are trying to lock up home field advantage. I say the Bills lose that game, but win their final remaining game against the Dolphins. It won’t be an easy win over the Dolphins, but I think they can do it.
Baltimore Ravens (8-6)
The Ravens have a fairly easy schedule the rest of the way. Baltimore plays the Colts later today, and then their final game is against the Bengals. This is good news for the Ravens, who are fighting for their playoff lives. The Ravens defense has had its ups and downs, but there’s one thing they’ve done consistently, and that’s beating bad offensive teams. Both teams they have left to play are bad on offense. This Ravens defense carries them to the playoffs.
Los Angeles Chargers (7-7)
I would be very surprised if the Chargers lost their next game to the Jets. I wouldn’t be surprised if they lost their final game to the Raiders, but I think they’ll win it. The Chargers are the only team in NFL history to start 0-4 and come back to make the playoffs. Now they’re trying to do it again. Even if they win both remaining games, this time I think they’ll be just short.
Oakland Raiders (6-8)
The Raiders have a tough road to the playoffs. They have to get to 8 wins, but that won’t guarantee them a playoff spot. The Eagles are looking for one more win to lock up home field advantage, and the Chargers will be looking for a win to just sneak in the playoffs. How the Raiders have been playing all year doesn’t give me any confidence in putting the Raiders in that final spot.
Miami Dolphins (6-8)
They’re technically still alive in the playoff hunt, but at the same time they’re not. They have to win both games for any chance to get in, but I have them losing both of their remaining games. Sorry Dolphins, but it’s over.
Final AFC Playoff Standing Prediction
1 – New England Patriots (13-3)
2 – Pittsburgh Steelers (13-3)
3 – Jacksonville Jaguars (12-4)
4 – Kansas City Chiefs (9-7)
5 – Baltimore Ravens (10-6)
6 – Buffalo Bills (9-7)