Community Tailgate: AFC Playoff Picture

As the NFL regular season nears its home stretch, there are plenty of topics and storylines to discuss, and PFR’s Community Tailgate is designed to address those stories. What’s the Community Tailgate all about? Well, it’s pretty simple. We’ll highlight one of the top stories going on in the NFL. Then, in the comment section below, we want you to weigh in and let us know what you think.

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With seven weeks remaining in the NFL season, a few division races around the league are closer than others. Bills head coach Rex Ryan admitted this week that the 9-0 Patriots will almost certainly win the AFC East, considering New England holds a four-game lead over both the Jets and Ryan’s Bills. Elsewhere though, there’s a little more drama, if you can call the AFC South race “dramatic” — two teams with sub-.500 records – the 4-5 Colts and Texans – are currently tied for first place in the South.

We’ll get to the NFC next week, but today, we want to take a look at the AFC playoff picture. The Pats are locks to reach the postseason, and the 8-1 Bengals look like a pretty safe bet as well, but are there any other sure things?

The 7-2 Broncos hold a three-game division lead, and should have no problem winning the West, but they’ll be relying on Brock Osweiler at quarterback for at least the short-term future, so there are no guarantees. The 6-4 Steelers have looked solid, but they’ve also been hit hard by injuries, and they don’t have much room for error, with eight AFC teams sitting on either four or five wins. The Bills and Jets are the only five-win teams, but the four-win Dolphins, Raiders, Chiefs, Colts, Texans, and Jaguars are all lurking.

What do you think? Will the three AFC teams with big division leads hang on? Which club will win the AFC South, and which teams will snag Wild Card spots? Are you predicting a second-half surge or collapse from any postseason contenders?

Weigh in below in the comments section with your thoughts and predictions!

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5 comments on “Community Tailgate: AFC Playoff Picture

  1. Locks are New England, Cincinnati, and Denver. The South will be determined by whoever wants it more, ultimately I think Indy misses out and Houston gets in. Wild card hunt will consist of Buffalo, Pittsburgh, Oakland, New York, and I’ll throw in Kansas City as an outside shot

  2. Dylan

    The only locks for me are New England and Cincy all other spots are up for grabs. I don’t see Denver making the playoffs if they can’t get that offense going, I think its oaklands to lose. I see luck coming back and Indy making the playoffs. Wildcard I’ll go Pittsburg and Browns. Clevelands offense is a lot better with Johnny football the defense will get better as well

    • Connor Byrne

      It’s hard to imagine the Broncos missing the playoffs after banking such a nice divisional lead. It also helps that their defense is the best in the NFL and can win them just about any game (if the QB doesn’t throw four interceptions against five completions, as Manning did last Sunday). Going forward, if Osweiler can even be close to average, the playoffs become a lock. Manning has been so terrible this year that Osweiler won’t have to do much to be an improvement.

      The Browns are 2-8. They’re done.

  3. aarongill

    Patriots bengals (first round bye)
    Jets vs Broncos
    Steelers vs colts
    Bills raiders can take over jets spot

  4. Sam Robinson

    The Chiefs have a very favorable schedule (two Chargers tilts, as well as games against the Ravens and Browns) that could push them to a 10-6 or 9-7 mark, as the Raiders are also on their slate twice, and the jury’s still out on them. I see the Chiefs being the primary threat to the AFC East second-tier contingent in the wild card derby. Connor is correct in the Broncos needing only league-average QB play to stay on course for the No. 3 seed, but we have little idea if Osweiler can deliver that. He’s looked ordinary in each of his cameos in four seasons, and you have to think the Broncos, who are again without DeMarcus Ware, will be underdogs against the Bears and Patriots. Two losses there and suddenly they could be staring at an AFC West outlook that houses the 6-5 Chiefs and 6-5 Raiders. It’s not beyond the realm of possibility for the Broncos, who also have the Bengals and Steelers in December, to suffer a historic collapse similar to their 2009 swoon after going 6-0.

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