AFC Playoff Picture: Huge Bills vs. Jets Game This Weekend


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 situation is a total mess right now. Almost halfway through the season, a whopping 11 of the 16 AFC teams are over .500, but no team is better than 6-2. This means that no one has locked up a spot, but only four teams are truly out of the race. This stands in contrast to the NFC, where Green Bay and San Francisco are mortal playoff locks and at least six teams have basically already been eliminated.

Let’s see who stands where:

Playoff Locks: None

Pittsburgh (6-2) took a huge step toward the playoffs Sunday with a big win over New England, but with Cincinnati and Baltimore both at 5-2, the NFC North is far from settled. Big games for the Steelers coming up with two contests against the Bengals in the next five weeks and a Sunday night showdown against the Ravens coming up this weekend.

Contenders: Pittsburgh (6-2), Buffalo (5-2), New England (5-2), Baltimore (5-2), Cincinnati (5-2), Houston (5-3), Kansas City (4-3), Oakland (4-3), San Diego (4-3), N.Y. Jets (4-3), Tennessee (4-3)

Huge, huge game this weekend coming up for the Bills against the Jets. If the Bills can win, they’ll move to 6-2 with a semi-favorable schedule left that includes two games against the winless Dolphins and a home game against the lowly Broncos. You have to believe the Bills can find a way to ten wins if they can win Sunday. Meanwhile the Jets absolutely can’t afford to fall two games behind the Bills, especially since the Jets host the Patriots next weekend.

The AFC West is truly bizarre. The Chiefs have amazingly pulled themselves back into the playoff chase after their disastrous start. The Chargers are far and away the most talented team in that division but keep shooting themselves in the foot. And who knows if the Raiders can hang around with Carson Palmer at QB? If they can’t beat the Broncos at home this week, you can pretty much write them off.

In the AFC South, it’s a two-team race between Houston and Tennessee. I’m not convinced the Titans are any good, and they’ll have a tough challenge this weekend from the surprising Bengals. Meanwhile, Houston has a very winnable game with a home contest against Cleveland.

On the Periphery: Cleveland (3-4)

The Browns are likely not contenders, but at just two games behind the AFC leaders in the loss column you can’t eliminate them yet. If they can beat the Texans on the road this Sunday, it’ll be time to take them a bit more seriously.

Not Happening: Denver (2-5), Jacksonville (2-6), Miami (0-7), Indianapolis (0-8)

No way any of these teams crawl back into it, and they’ll just be looking to play spoiler down the stretch. Of the four, the Jaguars will be the feistiest down the stretch thanks to a rugged defense. (Just ask the Ravens how dangerous the Jags can be.) Denver could make a bit of noise if the QB situation gets figured out. Miami will keep playing hard, but they just have no offense. That organization needs help. And then there’s the Colts….ugh. What a disaster. Indy is a very serious candidate to go 0-16.