AFC Playoff Picture into Week 17

Tennessee Titans Quarterback Ryan Tannehill (17) celebrating after a touchdown with teammates in the back ground (Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports)

And it all will come down to Week 17. Several games this week have the potential to change the current playoff picture. We’ll look at several different scenarios as many teams’ seasons will come down to the wire.

Current Playoff Picture:

AFC

#1: Baltimore Ravens (13-2)

#2: New England Patriots (12-3)

#3: Kansas City Chiefs (11-4)

#4: Houston Texans (10-5)

#5: Buffalo Bills (10-5)

#6: Tennessee Titans (8-7)

In the Hunt:

Pittsburgh Steelers (8-7)

Technically in the Hunt, but not really:

Oakland Raiders (7-8)

BATTLE FOR #2:

This has been one of the hardest seasons for New England in the past couple decades. The lack of offense has put them in a situation where they still have yet to clinch the #2 seed and first round bound. However, they basically have. The Chiefs will look to contest that seed this Sunday. The Patriots play the Dolphins, who have emerged as one of the worst teams this season, but you could say they are almost as good as the Bengals. The Dolphins are historically known to have beaten the Pats in Hard Rock Stadium in the past few years. However, this game will take place in Foxboro, giving the Patriots good odds to win the game. The Chiefs need the Pats to lose if they want to have a chance at the two seed, and they would have to beat the Chargers (which is likely). 

Kansas City Chiefs Quarterback Patrick Mahomes high-fiving teammates before a game (247Sports)

BATTLE FOR #3:

Now here’s where it gets interesting. The Chiefs play the Chargers this Sunday, as previously mentioned, and the Texans play the Titans. In order for the Texans to move up, which could have major implications, then they will need to win and the Chiefs to lose. This is unlikely since the Chargers do not have any promise of winning at Arrowhead Stadium, but definitely possible. Hypothetically, if this were to happen, the Texans would have to beat the Titans, which will definitely be a close game. This win and the Chiefs loss puts them at a tie, but the Texans hold the head-to-head tiebreaker over Kansas City due to the Texans beating the Chiefs earlier in the season. Now, do the Bills have a chance at the #3 seed? No. Even if they win on Sunday with both the Texans and Chiefs losing, then they would be at a tie with the Chiefs, and the Chiefs hold the tiebreaker over them. So, this is a race between Kansas City and Houston. 

Pittsburgh Steelers Safety Marcus Allen (17), Cornerback Mike Hilton (28), and Safety Terrell Edmunds (34) preparing for a game (Philip G. Pavely-USA TODAY Sports)

BATTLE FOR THE #6:

As much as I dislike the Steelers, what they have done is commendable. Losing AB and Le’Veon wasn’t seen as a huge loss seeing as JuJu and James Conner were two rising stars in this league. However, JuJu, Conner, and Big Ben got hurt, leaving Pittsburgh with a below average offense (to put it nicely). The defense as stepped up, similar to what New England has done, and they are fighting to get into the playoffs. But, the loss to the Jets did not help. The Titans leapfrogged into the six seed, and the Steelers are looking at an uphill battle. First and foremost, they need to beat the Ravens. Although Baltimore’s stars are taken out of this game, I am still taking the Ravens in this one. They need the Titans to lose to the Texans as well, which I would argue is unlikely. The Titans are essentially playing for a playoff spot, while the Texans are not really playing for anything. The Titans only lost by three on December 15, so with the added passion, the Titans may win this one. 

My Predictions:

#1: Baltimore Ravens (13-3)

#2: New England Patriots (13-3)

#3: Kansas City Chiefs (12-4)

#4: Houston Texans (10-6)

#5: Buffalo Bills (11-5)

#6: Tennessee Titans (9-7)

Reasoning: 

So while there is possible turnover, I don’t have anything changing in the AFC. I predict that the Titans will beat the Texans, which will allow the Titans to clinch. Other than this, the Ravens and Patriots will take the first-round bye. The Chiefs and Texans have already clinched their division, which gives them the 3 and 4 seeds. The Bills have already clinched the five seed, and the Titans should clinch the six seed this weekend.