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After Week 15, the AFC playoff picture is as followed:
- Chiefs, 13-1
- Bills, 11-3
- Steelers, 11-3
- Titans, 10-4
- Wild Card 1: Browns, 10-4
- Wild Card 3: Colts, 10-4
- Wild Card 2: Dolphins, 9-5
How did this happen? After an 11-0 start, the Steelers have dropped three straight, falling to the 3rd seed. Now, not even the AFC North is a lock. Should the Steelers lose this week to the Colts and the Browns beat the Jets — Week 17’s Browns-Steelers matchup will decide the division.
Chiefs’ fans are thrilled with Kansas City’s new two-game lead over the pack, but the team has not clinched the 1st seed yet. If the Chiefs win one of their two remaining games — Falcons and Chargers, respectively — the top seed is theirs. Should they lose out, it gets wild.
If the Chiefs, Steelers, and Bills all finish 13-3, strength of victory will determine the top seed. One could spend hours and hours and hours on the NFL Playoff Machine trying to understand this tiebreaker, which would be decided based on the outcomes of the other games over the next two weeks.
The Chiefs would most likely win the tiebreaker. However, there are specific scenarios where they wouldn’t. Here’s one:
For the record: if the Steelers lose tonight the Chiefs do NOT clinch the #1 seed. If KC loses out, PIT and BUF win out, MIN beats NO, DET beats TB, Bengals beat the Texans, Jaguars beat the Bears, Browns beat the Jets, and the Football Team beats Carolina…KC is the #2 seed.
— Rany Jazayerli (@jazayerli) December 22, 2020
The final Wild Card spot is slipping away from the Raiders (7-7), the team that just a few weeks ago was deemed the biggest threat to the Chiefs and Steelers. How times have changed.
The Dolphins (9-5) still control the path. If Miami wins out, they are in, though the Dolphins’ final two weeks are not simple. After the Raiders in Week 16, they face the Bills, who are playing as well as any team in the NFL. By contrast, the Ravens (also 9-5) have the Giants and Bengals left.
Additionally, say the Steelers defeat both the Colts and Browns, the Dolphins and/or Ravens could move up in Wild Card seeding.
In the AFC, separation among teams is minimal. The Bills, Chiefs, Steelers, Titans, Browns, or Ravens could ultimately advance to the Super Bowl. All can. That’s six contenders.
To be conservative, the Bills, Chiefs, and Titans are equal at the top.