AFC: Path to No. 1; Bills-Super Bowl?

After Week 13, the AFC playoff picture is as followed:

  1. Steelers, 11-1
  2. Chiefs, 11-1
  3. Bills, 9-3
  4. Titans, 8-4
  5. Wild Card 1: Browns, 9-3
  6. Wild Card 2: Dolphins, 8-4
  7. Wild Card 3: Colts, 8-4

Baltimore’s playoff hopes are alive after an impressive, get-right Tuesday night win. Due to win percentage in conference games, the No. 9 Ravens (7-5) trail the 8-seeded Raiders (7-5). Baltimore needs to beat Cleveland on Monday night to stay in the race.

Win or lose, the Browns should hold on to one of the three Wild Card spots. Cleveland made a statement against Tennessee on Sunday. Not only is it a playoff team — there were still doubts — it is a dangerous team in the AFC. Think of the Browns as last year’s Titans, a team that rode the NFL’s best run game past the Patriots, top-seeded Ravens, and to an early lead over the Chiefs in the AFC Championship Game.

The AFC’s two-team race for the first-round bye remains the NFL’s most intriguing storyline. Pittsburgh finally lost a game, but despite what the media tells you, it wasn’t a bad loss.

The Chiefs and Steelers don’t play this season. Therefore, if they end the year tied, their records against AFC teams will decide who gets home field advantage. In conference games, Kansas City is 9-1, while Pittsburgh is 8-0, which gives the Steelers the edge.

The Chiefs cannot lose another AFC matchup, and their sluggish play this past month could catch up to them against the feisty Dolphins this Sunday. If so, Kansas City would need Pittsburgh to lose two of its remaining four games, which is doubtful. It’s hard to find a plausible scenario where the Chiefs end up with a tiebreaker over the Steelers. They likely need to end the season with a better record by defeating all their remaining opponents: the Dolphins, Saints, Falcons, and Chargers.

At the end of Week 16, I expect the Steelers to clinch the 1st seed.

Then there’s Buffalo.

The Bills are good. Super Bowl-good. It doesn’t much matter if they are the 3rd or 4th seed, they will win a home playoff game. The Bills can also get into a 50-50 game with both the Chiefs and Steelers.

Super Bowls are often won in December when teams get hot. Right now, the Bills and Packers are those two teams.

Written by Bobby Burack

Bobby Burack covers media, politics, and sports at OutKick.

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