After an exciting Week 12, the AFC wild card race looks even more confusing as we inch closer to the end of the season. So how do things look heading into Week 13?
5th seed: Kansas City Chiefs (6-5)
The Chiefs have now won five straight games and hold a tiebreaker over Buffalo thanks to a 30-22 win last Sunday. The defense is a playoff calibre unit, even after losing Justin Houston early against the Bills. Alex Smith leads a strong offense with receivers Jeremy Maclin and Travis Kelce, and the Chiefs seem able to plug anyone into the backfield and have them be productive. Riding a strong wave of momentum, the Chiefs could even catch the Broncos for first place in the AFC West. But they are definitely one of the strongest wild card contenders.
6th seed: Houston Texans (6-5)
Houston’s defense has been more dominant and disruptive of late, fuelling a late playoff push. Remarkably, Houston’s renaissance could mean that the woeful AFC South could have two playoff teams. Brian Hoyer runs a safe, efficient offense with star receiver DeAndre Hopkins. The running game needs to improve though if the Texans want to make a serious playoff bid. They have a better chance than the Colts of winning the AFC South, and should be the division’s lone playoff team this year. The Texans also hold a tiebreaker over the New York Jets.
7th seed: New York Jets (6-5)
The Jets got back on track by going back to their early winning formula as well as playing a weak Dolphins team again. Ryan Fitzpatrick looks better, presiding over a strong passing game with Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker. The defense has also started to turn things around after being limited by injuries. However, despite one good run against Miami, Chris Ivory still does not look 100%, which could cause problems for winter football in the Meadowlands.
8th seed: Pittsburgh Steelers (6-5)
Pittsburgh’s loss to Seattle drops them out of a wild card spot. But the Steelers have a strong chance to climb back into contention. They have one of the league’s best offenses as long as Ben Roethlisberger is healthy. They moved the ball well against Seattle’s famous secondary, but were undone by penalties and poor calls. Roethlisberger also left the game after self-reporting a concussion. If he is out for another extended period, the Steelers could fall away in the wild card race. The defense has been playing well, but allowed Seattle’s offense to wake up and dictate the game. The Steelers do hold tiebreakers over Kansas City and Oakland though, which could save them if Big Ben misses more time.
9th seed: Oakland Raiders (5-6)
The Raiders’ offense got back on track against a Titans defense that has been surprisingly good this season. Derek Carr and Co. give Oakland the best offense they’ve had for years. But the defense still leaves a lot to be desired, and is one of the weakest in the league. Not something you want in a sustained playoff run. Holding a tiebreaker over the Jets gives Oakland a decent chance of returning to the playoffs.
10th seed: Buffalo Bills (5-6)
The emergence of Sammy Watkins makes Buffalo’s offense even more dangerous, giving them a legitimate weapon on the perimeter. The defense has improved over recent games, but it still has flaws. Three things have derailed Buffalo’s chances of making the playoffs; injuries, penalties, and Rex’s in-game decisions. Ryan botched two challenges against the Chiefs, causing him to miss two controversial calls that he would’ve won. The Bills hold a tiebreaker over the Jets, but have lost one to the Chiefs.