Poll: Who Will Be AFC’s No. 6 Seed?

Five AFC teams have separated from the pack and look to be moving into the playoffs. While much could change, it would be surprising to see a January without the Chiefs, Patriots, Steelers, Chargers and Texans.

But with the NFL requiring six teams to participate in each conference’s postseason bracket, this leaves an interesting race for what will probably be the AFC’s No. 6 seed. There are five five- or four-win AFCers entering Week 11. Each has between a 19 and 41 percent chance of securing a playoff berth, per Football Outsiders.

The Titans have become the leader in this pursuit, with Football Outsiders giving the resurgent team a 41 percent chance to make the playoffs. They qualified last season for the first time since 2008 and notched one of the NFL’s better wins this year in pummeling the Patriots 34-10. The Titans’ No. 16 DVOA placement is third among the AFC’s middle-class teams, but their defense leads the NFL in points allowed (16.8). After entering Week 9 with just three touchdown passes, Marcus Mariota threw two in each of Tennessee’s two November wins.

At 5-4, the Titans could knock the Texans (6-3) down into the No. 6 seed conversation as well. As could the Colts, potentially.

Andrew Luck was a frequent conversation topic while he recovered from a career-threatening injury, but now that he’s back, the former No. 1 overall pick has been delivering a borderline-dominant season off the grid. Drew Brees and Patrick Mahomes have understandably dominated the MVP discussion, but Luck’s 26 touchdown passes — at least three in six straight games — rank second in the league. The Colts (No. 15 DVOA, 18 percent playoff odds) gave off an obvious rebuilding vibe this offseason but have an outside shot at the playoffs. Their only games against winning teams down the stretch are against the Texans and five-win Titans (twice).

The AFC North’s fringe contenders have endured humbling midseason stretches. The Bengals (playoff odds: 21 percent, No. 21 DVOA) and Ravens (32 percent, No. 7 DVOA) are a combined 1-5 in their past six contests. Cincinnati’s without its best player, with A.J. Green nursing a foot injury, and Baltimore looks set to start either Lamar Jackson or Robert Griffin III against the Bengals on Sunday.

The Bengals’ opportunities against top-tier opposition could not have gone worse, with both the Chiefs and Saints posting at least 45 points, but they did play the Steelers close and at 5-4 are still firmly in contention. Baltimore’s defense ranks second in points allowed (17.8), giving the Ravens a major edge on their rivals’ 31st-ranked unit, and the Ravens played the Saints much closer than Cincy did in a one-point defeat. The Bengals have three road games left against winning teams — the Ravens, Chargers and Steelers — but the Ravens also venture to Kansas City and Los Angeles, complicating matters.

Football Outsiders gives the Dolphins a 19 percent chance at playoff qualification. Tied for the longest Super Bowl odds entering the season, Miami booking its second postseason berth in three years would be an obvious surprise. All five of the Dolphins’ losses came by double digits, and Ryan Tannehill‘s uncertain status clouds their second-half outlook. They rank outside the top 20 in DVOA offense and defense. While they do play the Bills twice in December, their Patriots rematch and a Minnesota trip also loom.

Can a long-odds team creep back into this? The Jaguars were picked by many to repeat as AFC South champs, but they’ve lost five straight. The Broncos are still ninth in DVOA, but close losses — and three combined games against the Chargers and Steelers — likely doom them. Do the Browns (3-6-1) have faint hope?

So, who is going to round out the AFC bracket? Vote in PFR’s latest poll and weigh in with your take in the comments section.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

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9 comments on “Poll: Who Will Be AFC’s No. 6 Seed?

  1. antsmith7

    Wouldn’t be surprised if Tennessee won the division. They’ve looked good lately.

  2. Michael Chaney

    The Texans are a good team, but I’m still not a firm believer in them because they’re just another Watson injury away from crumbling (especially behind the offensive line he has). The Titans have looked relatively good lately, but I still think any team in that division has a chance.

    Aside from just saying the Titans, I’ll go with the Ravens. They can still lean on their defense, and they come close every year, so they’re probably due. I’d love to see the Browns make it, but they’d probably have to win out (or lose once at most) just because of how crowded the playoff picture is.

  3. sufferfortribe


    Sorry, just getting some practice saying this, for when it becomes reality.

  4. slpdajab55

    If the Bengals get their defense fixed even half way .. I think they will be in. I view them and Tennessee the same .. one needs to fix an inconsistent offense and the other a defense.

    • jkoms57

      Very important game..

      Everyone’s high on the Titans because they recently destroyed the Patriots, but not sure if I buy the hype.

      Pats are nothing without Gronk.

      Colts seem legit, should be a great game.

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