Heading into the final quarter of the 2019 NFL season, the AFC Playoff Picture is coming into focus. Teams are jockeying for postseason position and a shot to play in Super Bowl LIV in Miami, FL.
AFC Playoff Top Seeds
1-seed: Baltimore Ravens (10-2)
Lamar Jackson and company are playing their best ball of the season. They’ve won eight straight headings into their Week 14 matchup with the Buffalo Bills.
Baltimore faces the Bills (9-3), the Jets (4-8), the Browns (5-7) and the Steelers (7-5) to close the season. They may need to run the table to secure the No. 1 overall seed in the AFC, but that’s something they can do.
2-seed: New England Patriots (10-2)
The Patriots offense has sputtered at times this season. Tom Brady is finally starting to look his age, and there hasn’t been much help from his receiving corps. The offensive line has been banged up throughout the year, too, making Brady’s life a little more complicated.
Despite the 10-2 record, New England could conceivably slip to the No. 5 seed. They don’t own tiebreakers over the Baltimore Ravens or Houston Texans, and it’s possible the Buffalo Bills could steal the AFC East from them given the right circumstances.
New England faces the Chiefs (8-4), the Bengals (1-11), the Bills (9-3) and the Dolphins (3-9). A 3-1 final stretch from the Patriots should equal a first-round bye.
AFC Playoffs Middle Seeds
3-seed: Houston Texans (8-4)
Coming off a massive win over the Patriots, Houston controls its own fate as the 3-seed in the AFC Playoff picture. That said, the Texans still have two games upcoming versus hard-charging Tennessee.
Despite the up-and-down play and an inconsistent running game, Houston can still win the AFC South. They face the Broncos (4-8), the Titans (7-5), the Bucs (5-7) and the Titans (7-5) again to end the season.
The Week 17 home game versus the Titans might very well be for the AFC South crown and a chance to host a playoff game.
4-seed: Kansas City Chiefs (8-4)
The Kansas City Chiefs seem to have turned a corner recently. With Patrick Mahomes rounding back into form after his injury, the Chiefs have won three of their last four. They’ve taken control of the AFC West.
Kansas City has one major challenge remaining on their schedule, and that’s their Week 14 matchup with the Patriots in Foxboro, MA. They finish the season with games against the Broncos (4-8), the Bears (6-6) and the Chargers (4-8).
If the Chiefs can run the table in the final quarter of the season, they would finish 12-4 and could secure the 3-seed.
AFC Playoff Wildcards
5-seed: Buffalo Bills (9-3)
The Buffalo Bills have been one of the surprise teams in the AFC this season. Their impressive win on Thanksgiving over the Dallas Cowboys has poised the Bills to make a run at the AFC East crown.
While it’s unlikely, Buffalo could wrest the AFC East title from New England with a win over the Patriots in Week 16 and some help. The Patriots have won 10 straight AFC East titles, and Buffalo hasn’t won one since 1995.
Buffalo faces a tough task versus the Ravens in Week 14, then have games versus the playoff-hopeful Steelers (7-5), the Patriots (10-2) and the Jets (4-8). The Bills need to win out to win the AFC East, but a 2-2 finish and an 11-5 record overall will get them into the playoffs.
6-seed: Pittsburgh Steelers (7-5)
Of all the current playoff teams, the Pittsburgh Steelers are the least likely to remain there. The Steelers are starting their third-string quarterback and have been bitten by the injury bug. Despite stout defensive play, Pittsburgh faces a steep climb to the playoffs.
With games against the Cardinals (3-8-1), the Bills (9-3), the Jets (4-8), and the Ravens (10-2), Pittsburgh’s final quarter is not an easy one. There’s a reality where Baltimore is not sitting its starters in that final game because of playoff positioning. The Steelers likely need a 3-1 finish, with their only loss coming against Arizona, to get into the playoffs.
AFC Playoffs still in the hunt
While only the Cincinnati Bengals (1-11) and Miami Dolphins (3-9) are technically eliminated from playoff contention, there are only a few teams left with a realistic shot at the postseason.
Of those clubs, the Tennessee Titans (7-5) are the most likely to make the playoffs at this point. The Titans are 5-1 under new starting quarterback Ryan Tannehill. They could win the AFC South and take the 4-seed by sweeping their two games with Houston.
The Indianapolis Colts (6-6) were playoff long shots when Andrew Luck retired in the offseason. And while the team was frisky earlier this season, bad losses to the Dolphins and Chargers, and two consecutive losses overall have hurt their playoff chances. With an injury-depleted offense and a hobbled Jacoby Brissett, the Colts will need a miracle finish to make the playoffs.
The Oakland Raiders (6-6) all but eliminated themselves with their terrible loss in Week 12 to the New York Jets. They’ve lost two games in a row and are 3-4 over the last seven weeks. While they could finish 9-7, the Raiders will need a lot of help to make the playoffs.
AFC Playoff Prediction
Here’s my prediction for the AFC playoff seedings: (1) Baltimore, (2) New England, (3) Kansas City, (4) Tennessee, (5) Buffalo, and (6) Houston.
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