With the Bills actually in the playoff chase this year, each week we’ll be breaking down the AFC playoff situation in a feature called AFC Playoff Picture.
The AFC Playoff Picture continues to be rather muddy. Very few teams are out of it, but still no one has separated from the pack to really lock down a spot yet.
Let’s see who stands where:
Playoff Locks: None
Contenders: Baltimore (6-2), Cincinnati (6-2), Pittsburgh (6-3), Houston (6-3), Buffalo (5-3), New England (5-3), N.Y. Jets (5-3) Kansas City (4-4), Oakland (4-4), San Diego (4-4), Tennessee (4-4)
Baltimore (6-2) is probably the team closest to the playoffs with their Sunday night defeat of Pittsburgh (6-3), completing a season sweep of the Steelers. The Ravens’ remaining schedule is also not tough, with two games left against Cleveland and also contests against Indy and Seattle. But two games also remain against the surprising Bengals (6-2), so the Ravens are far from playoff safe. The Bengals also have two games left against Pittsburgh, so their fate is totally in their hands.
The AFC East picture really heated up this weekend with the Patriots’ loss to the Giants and Buffalo’s loss to the Jets. With all three teams tied at 5-3, this could be a fun race all the way to the end. The Jets and Pats tangle this weekend, while the Bills travel to Dallas for an interconference showdown. A New England win would really put them in good shape, as their second-half schedule is very soft (KC, @PHI, IND, @WSH, @DEN, MIA, BUF). Meanwhile, the Bills’ next three games are on the road with trips to Dallas, Miami, and New York for a rematch with the Jets. The Bills probably need to win two of the three to stay in the race…no small feat.
The AFC West continues to stink, with a three-way tie for the “lead” at just 4-4. I still think San Diego wins, but who knows at this point. A lot could be settled this week, as there are two interdivision matchups (OAK @ SD and DEN @ KC).
In the AFC South, at 6-3 Houston is beginning to pull away from Tennessee (4-4), and the Titans halve looked very bad lately. Of course, the Texans are the Texans, so Houston choking away this lead would not be a shock. I refuse to move the Texans into the “locks” category until they actually clinch.
On the Periphery: Denver (3-5)
Don’t look now, but the Fightin’ Tebows are back in the race, just a game out of the lead in the AFC West. A huge game against the Chiefs this weekend awaits. A win and they’re right in the thick of things. A loss and at 3-6 they’re probably done.
Not Happening: Cleveland (3-5) , Jacksonville (2-6), Miami (1-7), Indianapolis (0-9)
Cleveland’s not mathematically out at 3-5, but I can’t see them jumping into the intense NFC North race. Miami has been very fiesty lately, and we’ll see if their high spirits continue now that they’ve gotten that elusive first win.