After 12, here is how the AFC sits:
- Steelers, 11-0
- Chiefs, 10-1
- Titans, 8-3
- Bills, 8-3
- Wild Card 1: Browns, 8-3
- Wild Card 2: Dolphins, 7-4
- Wild Card 3: Colts, 7-4
Pittsburgh is 11-0 and has the Football Team, Bills, Bengals, Colts, and Browns remaining. This is a 15-1 football team, 14-2 at worse. Historically, that’s enough to clinch the 1st seed and rest Week 17. Not this season.
Kansas City is just one game behind. For some reason I can’t figure out, according to ESPN’s Playoff Machine, the Chiefs have the tiebreaker over the Steelers in most scenarios.
But Kansas City is playing a dangerous weekly game of light-switch, turning it on and off. This season, it has gotten them only once, against the Raiders. But it will get them again. With the Dolphins, Saints, and sometimes-hot Falcons remaining — the Chiefs will lose at least one more game.
As talented as they are, the Chiefs cannot bank on winning out by playing well one and half quarters a game. Hopefully, their inevitable loss comes in the regular season, not in the lose-you-are-out playoffs.
I’d bet the season ends with the Steelers one game ahead of the Chiefs, avoiding a tiebreaker.
Buffalo is quietly doing really well. While its early-season loss to the Titans could determine seeding, the 3rd seed isn’t necessarily better than the 4th this season.
The AFC Wild Card race is a maze among the Browns, Dolphins, Colts/Titans, Raiders, and Ravens. Of the pack, Vegas is the team to fear. At 6-5, the Raiders are more likely to enter as the 7th seed to face the 2nd seed. Chiefs-Raiders, part III. Who says no?
Miami has the fifth toughest remaining schedule. Baltimore has the easiest. A swap is plausible, though the Dolphins are currently the better team.
All five teams should end up around 10-6 or 11-5, creating confusion so frustrating that fan bases will question tie-breaking legitimacy.