Week 13 saw the AFC South tighten up into a three-way tie with Houston losing, Indianapolis blowing out the Jets, and Tennessee getting their week’s rest. Pittsburgh and Baltimore stayed tied atop the AFC North with twin impressive home wins, and appear headed for a showdown in week 16 to decide the division. Miami, one week after moving into a tie for a wildcard spot, fell back with the blowout loss to Baltimore, dealing their playoff hopes a big blow. Buffalo’s loss at Oakland was the other crushing swing, as Buffalo has a favorable schedule over the final four weeks, but now sits at 6-6 and needing to go on a run.
Meanwhile, the AFC West contenders continued their magic. Oakland completed that big comeback against the Bills. That came hours after the Chiefs won in wild fashion with a Pick-2 at Atlanta. Denver, meanwhile, did what they needed to do on the road against the hapless Jaguars.
All of that sets up a big contest that will go a long way toward settling the AFC West, to start Week 14, when Oakland goes to Arrowhead. A Raiders win would all but win the division for Oakland with 3 games to go, giving them a two-game lead over both the Chiefs and Broncos. A Chiefs win, meanwhile, would set up plenty of drama. Kansas City would sweep the Raiders, holding the tiebreaker, and both have tough games down the stretch.
Last week, I posted the conference records and future schedules of all contenders. Here is the projected playoff field based on the upcoming matchups and tiebreakers.
The current projections still have Oakland on top and getting the 2-seed, because of the possibility of the road win at KC. If the Chiefs win, the odds would then swing in their favor to get that bye. Tonight is a huge game in the AFC.
New England is still the overall favorite to get the #1 seed, even with Gronkowski’s injury, thanks to the favorable schedule and more certainty to win the division.
In the AFC North, Pittsburgh is the favorite due to schedule, and getting that Baltimore game at home in week 16. If Baltimore can match them on record, the Ravens would likely get the tiebreaker, though. This is a big swing game for the Ravens’ chances against New England this week.
The AFC South is a three-way mess. Houston looks like the worst of the three teams at this point, but has the tiebreaker advantages, already 3-0 in the division while the Colts have 2 losses and the Titans have 3. That’s why they are a slight favorite over the other two, along with a schedule that gives them a chance to get two wins. It wouldn’t surprise me, though, if the Colts or Titans close 3-1 to pass them.
For the final wildcard, Denver is in control at the moment, up on Miami and with the tiebreaker edge. Buffalo has the favorable schedule but probably needs to run the table barring a Denver collapse, and the AFC North runner-up could get in the mix at 9-7, if Denver struggles late.