After an eventful Week 13, the muddy AFC playoff picture looks even more complicated after several matchups between wild card contenders. The Texans and Bills battled in Buffalo, the Chiefs and Raiders met in Oakland, and Pittsburgh and Indianapolis fought on Sunday Night Football. So how does the picture look heading into Week 14?
5th seed: Kansas City Chiefs (7-5)
The Chiefs won their sixth straight game with a win over the Raiders. Kansas City deploy a high-flying, efficient offense – quarterback Alex Smith hasn’t thrown an interception in over 300 attempts – with a strong running game. The Chiefs consistently win the turnover battle every week thanks to a disruptive defense that is easily one of the AFC’s best. The Chiefs also hold tiebreakers over the majority of their fellow wild card contenders as well as one of the easiest remaining schedules in the league. Kansas City are clearly one of the favourites to claim one of the AFC’s wild card berths.
6th seed: New York Jets (7-5)
The Jets are back in the race thanks to Chan Gailey’s offense playing better over the past few weeks. But the defense still has issues, and the Jets have gotten lucky with several of their wins – the games against Jacksonville and the Giants come to mind – despite major injuries. The Jets are prone to mistakes and often have down stretches. New York’s struggle for consistency could keep them out of the playoffs.
7th seed: Pittsburgh Steelers (7-5)
With Ben Roethlisberger healthy, the Steelers have arguably the most explosive offense in the league. The defense has also played well for most of the year and can keep Pittsburgh in games. But the Steelers have a mixed remaining schedule. Their next two games are against the AFC’s top two seeds Cincinnati and Denver, before finishing the season with games against Baltimore and Cleveland. With a strong chance to make it into the playoffs, the Steelers will be a dark horse threat in the postseason.
8th seed: Buffalo Bills (6-6)
Buffalo’s offense has been playing better lately thanks to the emergence of Sammy Watkins and the return to health of LeSean McCoy. But the defense still isn’t being utilised properly by Rex Ryan, drawing more criticism from players. Rex also sometimes makes questionable calls in games that can cost his team games. The Bills have been unlucky with injuries this season and should have more wins. They hold tiebreakers over the Jets and Texans, which could be enough to sneak them into the postseason.
9th seed: Houston Texans (6-6)
Houston’s defense had been dominant for much of the past month. But Rex Ryan seemed to solve J.J. Watt last week, often using double or even triple teams to contain the reigning Defensive Player of the Year and not allow him a single sack. The offense plays well when the defense is dominant, but can’t carry the team on its own. The Texans may not have to earn a wild card because they could still beat the Colts to the division title, but have given up tiebreakers to the Chiefs and Bills.
10th seed: Oakland Raiders (5-7)
The offense was the main reason for Oakland’s resurgence this season, but is struggling to keep the Raiders afloat against better defenses. Oakland’s own defense wouldn’t be able to stack up against stronger offenses. Although the Raiders hold a tiebreaker over the Jets, they have also dropped one against the Chiefs and look like longshots to make the postseason.