After Week 14, the AFC playoff picture is as followed:
- Chiefs, 12-1
- Steelers, 11-2
- Bills, 10-3
- Titans, 9-4
- Wild Card 1: Browns, 9-4
- Wild Card 3: Colts, 9-4
- Wild Card 2: Dolphins, 8-5
What a game. Flashes of last season’s 14-2 Ravens were on display last night. That team is a clear playoff threat, though maybe not a playoff team.
Baltimore (8-5) is in a down-to-the-wire race with the Dolphins (8-5) and Raiders (7-6) for the 7th seed. While the Colts and Browns are not playoff locks, both should end the season 12-4 or 11-5, which will be enough to hold on.
Among the Ravens, Dolphins, and Raiders, the Dolphins have by far the toughest remaining strength of schedule (.590). However, that’s due to the Week 17 matchup with the Bills, who may or may not have anything to play for. (More on the Bills below). Week 16, Vegas and Miami face off in what will be the season’s most consequential game yet. The Ravens have the easiest remaining schedule in the NFL at a .218 strength.
Kansas City moved into the 1st seed in the AFC’s most noteworthy change this week. With Pittsburgh’s loss to Buffalo, the Chiefs can now lose to the Saints or the Falcons (two NFC teams) in the next two weeks and remain in 1st. By contrast, the Chiefs would lose a two-loss tiebreaker over the Steelers if the Chargers (an AFC team) were to beat the champs in Week 17. That brings us to Buffalo.
For much of the season, the AFC’s 1st seed was deemed a two-team race, Steelers v. Chiefs. There is, however, a plausible scenario in which the Bills walk into the playoffs with the top seed.
Check this out:
Say the Steelers beat the Bengals and Colts the next two weeks (which they should do), then lose to the Browns (which they might.)
Say the Chiefs lose to the Saints this weekend. (That’s a 50-50 game. I’d favor the Saints off a loss and at home.) Then the Chiefs beat the Falcons but lose to the Chargers. (Kansas City always struggles in division games. Earlier this season, Kansas City needed overtime to beat Los Angeles, 23-20.)
All realistic so far, no?
Then the Bills win out. (I’d take that bet. Right now, no team is hotter.)
At that point, the Chiefs, Bills, and Steelers are tied at 13-3. Based on strength of victory, the Bills would have the tiebreaker and the 1st seed. The Chiefs would come in 2nd, while the Steelers would fall to 3rd.
Whether this comes to fruition or not, Buffalo may still be the AFC’s best team. The Steelers are struggling and losing. The Chiefs are struggling and barely winning in the last possession each week. If it weren’t for Kyler Murray’s miracle Hail Mary, Buffalo would be winners of seven straight.