We are now officially past the halfway mark of this year’s NFL season and the playoffs are slowly looming into view.
The AFC playoff picture is starting to take shape and we are already getting a sense of who may be facing off against each other by the time January rolls around.
With just eight weeks of the season remaining, the race is on for many teams to secure their berths for this year’s dance.
Breaking down the battle for the number 1 seed
With each passing week, the AFC playoff picture continues to get more complex.
Sitting at the top of the AFC tree are the defending Super Bowl champions, the Kansas City Chiefs. Despite notching seven wins, they haven’t looked the dominant force that many pundits and betting sites like FanDuel sportsbook predicted they would be. Having experienced defeats against both the Detroit Lions and Denver Broncos, wins against the Eagles and Bills are a must if they are to secure the top spot.
Hot on the heels of the Chiefs are the Baltimore Ravens. After blowing out the Seattle Seahawks in Week 9, the Ravens were brought crashing back down to earth after suffering a heartbreaking loss against divisional rivals, the Cleveland Browns.
Not only did the Ravens miss an opportunity to climb above the Chiefs, but both the Browns and Pittsburgh Steelers are now just only a game behind in a highly competitive AFC North division.
AFC Giants face a battle to make the postseason
Before a ball had been thrown this season, two teams that many believed would sit comfortably in the Playoffs were the Buffalo Bills and Cincinnati Bengals.
The Bengals’ season got off to a disastrous start. With Joe Burrow popping his calf, the Bengals lost three of their first four games.
As Burrow healed, so did his team, winning four straight to sit at 5-3. With many believing that the Bengals would go on to challenge for the AFC’s top seed, they hit a significant bump when falling to the C.J Stroud-inspired Houston Texans.
Now sitting at 5-4, the Bengals will need to bounce back quickly if they are to keep their season on track.
The Bills season has been massively disrupted by injuries with several defensive stars being ruled out for the season.
With the team needing to lean on the talents of Josh Allen, Allen has picked an inconvenient time to turn into a turnover machine.
Currently leading the NFL with 15 turnovers, costly interceptions have cost the Bills at multiple times and one of the most heavily fancied teams in the AFC currently sit at 5-5.
What makes matters worse for the Bills Mafia is that their remaining schedule looks tough. Games against the Eagles, Chiefs and Cowboys are likely to define whether they will make the playoffs and heading into these key contests there is very little room for error.
Talented squads in danger of missing out
The L.A Chargers and New York Jets are both clinging onto their playoff dream.
In Justin Herbert, the Chargers have one of the most talented quarterbacks in the NFL, but they haven’t been able to play complimentary football around him.
Tough losses against the Chiefs, Cowboys and Lions have seen their defense get shredded at vital times and the pressure is ramping up on Head Coach Brandon Staley.
Sitting at 4-5, time is running out for the Chargers, and they will need to go on a serious run to put themselves back into the playoff picture.
The Jets headed into the season on the back of a wave of optimism, but that optimism was dashed when Aaron Rodgers went down with an Achilles injury in his very first series with his new team.
With Rodgers rehabbing well, fans of the Jets were hoping the team could carry enough water until he returned. With the Jets defense playing lights out football, the offense under Zach Wilson just hasn’t been able to fire.
Sitting at 4-5, the playoff dream is starting to fade, and the Jets will need to find a way of winning some games if they are to be in the dance by the time Rodgers returns.
Can the Texans continue to shock?
Few would have believed that the Houston Texans had a chance of being in the playoff picture but after a brilliant start to the season, they have a real chance of winning the AFC South.
They have won the 2024 draft with C.J Stroud. On pace to have the greatest rookie season in history, Stroud has shown his class in leading his team to memorable wins over the Steelers, Jaguars and Bengals. With a kind schedule ahead of them, they could play a real part in the AFC playoff conversation.