Let’s take a quick look at the AFC playoff picture, ranked from top to bottom:
1. Baltimore Ravens (8-3) 2. New England Patriots (8-4) 3. Tennessee Titans (8-4) 4. Kansas City Chiefs (7-4) 5. Cincinnati Bengals (7-4) 6. Buffalo Bills (7-4) 7. Los Angeles Chargers (6-5) 8. Las Vegas Raiders (6-5) 9. Denver Broncos (6-5) 10. Indianapolis Colts (6-6) 11. Pittsburgh Steelers (5-5-1) 12. Cleveland Browns (6-6) 13. Miami Dolphins (5-7) 14. New York Jets (3-8) 15. Houston Texans (2-9) 16. Jacksonville Jaguars (2-9)
There are 13 teams today who would semi-realistically tell you they are still competing for the playoffs. 12 of those have records above .500, and the 5-7 Dolphins are riding a 4-game winning streak. This is about as up for grabs as the AFC can look heading into Week 13.
The most dangerous of the bunch is still the Kansas City Chiefs, particularly if they are able to run the table and finish 13-4. That is obviously unlikely to happen, but it’s worth considering given that they will be favored in every game to finish the season, which includes two games against the Broncos, one against the Raiders, and one against the Steelers. The other two, which are admittedly more shaky matchups, are on the road against the Chargers and Bengals.
The AFC is cannibalizing itself, and the Chiefs may very well be the beneficiary. Since they have already lost to the Ravens, Titans, and Bills, Kansas City would need to finish with a record of at least one game better than any of them to capture the number one seed (and thus a first round bye and home field advantage). Given that Buffalo and New England still have to play each other twice, and the Ravens have games against the Packers, Rams and Bengals (on top of divisional matchups against the Browns and Steelers [twice]), I would be inclined to take the Chiefs if I could get better than even money on that proposition.
And listen, I’m a homer for my favorite football team. I am also the jerk off who thought it would be a good idea to title the series of their collapse Notes From A Crumbling NFL Empire and continue on with it even though they are 7-4 and in decent position to win the AFC Championship for a third straight year. That’s on me. Naturally I bend towards looking at them with a glass half-full approach, but I would consider myself a pretty objective dude when it comes to them.
And why not? It’s not like anyone else in the conference is walking in the room and putting their dick on the table. It’s a well-balanced, average bunch. Some call it competitive, and I call it underwhelming. It should say something that the team most Chiefs fans fear is New England, a team with a rookie quarterback and a good defense.
These are just my feelings now, as a status update, since KC just got done with their bye week. We’ll have more information once they play the Broncos on Sunday Night Football. But right now, I gotta say I am feeling very optimistic about the rest of the season.