Thanksgiving is less than two weeks away. The weather is turning frosty in many parts of the Midwest and Northeast. Teams are finishing the bye weeks and it’s time to take a look forward to see how the playoff races are shaking out.
By this time of the year, the haves and have-nots have started to separate. The problem in the AFC is that there just is not much separation and the middle of the pack is very mediocre. You could legitimately place eight NFC teams in the top 12 teams in the league.
If the playoffs ended today, both Tennessee and Jacksonville would be in handily, and the Buffalo Bills, coming off consecutive embarrassing performances, would be the final wildcard at 5-4.
Here is my projection for win totals for the AFC teams, looking ahead to future schedules:
Much is still to be decided at the top of the AFC. New England has the highest expected win total, barely, but they do have to go to Pittsburgh in what could be a key tiebreaker game. That, though, is the only game involving the leading AFC contenders, and outside of Jacksonville playing Seattle, they have also finished their key NFC games. New England, Kansas City, and Pittsburgh all have very favorable schedules so it could come down to who gets upset in a big game.
The AFC South could come down to the return match between Jacksonville and Tennessee, but the Titans, who have been far from impressive but have gathered wins recently, must keep it within a game.
After that, well, yuck. Buffalo is in the lead. The Bills’ schedule, though, is not favorable with two games against the Patriots and going to Kansas City. Baltimore, despite currently sitting at 4-5, has the best win projection down the stretch, as they will likely be a favorite in every game besides the Pittsburgh matchup.
This week’s game at Green Bay is a swing one for the Ravens. If they don’t win that, it is wide open, with the final wildcard spot likely going to an 8-8 team. Oakland also has a must-win, at home against New England. The Raiders, Dolphins, and yes the Chargers and Bengals still have hope if the Ravens and Bills falter.