This will be the third year where seven teams from each conference make it into the postseason. First, the four division winners per usual, and then three wild card teams. After 15 weeks in the NFL, only two teams in the AFC have punched their ticket to the NFL postseason.
The Buffalo Bills and the Kansas City Chiefs both have an 11-3 record and have clinched playoffs. Both teams are competing for that first-round bye. It’s crazy to think that a team with ten wins hasn’t clinched playoffs yet, and a team with four wins still has a shot at making it. Here is a brief breakdown of the teams remaining and their chances of playing beyond the regular season.
#3 Cincinnati Bengals: First AFC North, Fifth NFL
The Bengals are a surprise after 15 weeks. They currently sit at 10-4 and still have a chance to miss playoffs. A minimal chance but still a chance. Per the New York Times, Cincinnati has over a 99% chance to make playoffs. They only need to win one of their next three games to clinch; even then, they could lose out and still make it. The stars won’t align and push a 10-4 team out of playoffs. The Bengals will face off against the New England Patriots, Buffalo Bills, and Baltimore Ravens. The Patriots and Ravens are still contenders, so they won’t give away the victory.
#4 Tennessee Titans: First AFC South, 13th NFL
The Titans are currently riding a four-game losing streak as they head into their Week 16 matchup. They’ve had close losses to the Bengals and the Los Angeles Chargers and were blown out by the Philadelphia Eagles and Jacksonville Jaguars in that stretch. With a 7-7 record, the New York Times has the Titans at a 69% chance of making the postseason.
With their narrow lead in the AFC South, they’ll need to turn around their season if they want to play beyond the regular season. To finish the regular season, they will face off against the Houston Texans, Dallas Cowboys, and the Jaguars. However, the Texans have already been knocked out, the Cowboys have clinched playoffs, and the Jaguars are in the hunt.
#5 Baltimore Ravens: Second AFC North, Eighth NFL
Injuries have not been a friend to the Ravens this season, but somehow, they’ve found the win column. Elite quarterback Lamar Jackson has missed two straight games, and the Ravens have gone 1-1 during that time. As of the latest news, it sounds like Jackson will miss his third consecutive game since suffering a PCL sprain, so Tyler Huntley should start his third game. With a 9-5 record, the New York Times has the Ravens at a 98% chance of making the NFL postseason.
If Huntley can lead the team to a Week 16 win, the front office might let him finish the regular season to ensure Lamar returns 100%. The Ravens will take on the Atlanta Falcons, Pittsburgh Steelers, and Bengals. All three teams are fighting, but the Falcons’ season is all but lost.
#6 Los Angeles Chargers: Second AFC West, Tenth NFL
Another team that has battled plenty of injuries is the LA Chargers. The Chargers have missed their top two wide receivers for most of the NFL season. Keenan Allen and Mike Williams are vital options in the passing game. With both guys back and elite running back Austin Ekeler still tearing apart defenses, this team can become a dark horse in the NFL postseason.
With an 8-6 record, the New York Times has the Chargers at an 80% chance of making the playoffs. With a two-win streak, this team should easily win out to finish the regular season. Unfortunately, the Chiefs have clinched the division, but three more wins would put them at 11-6, which should grant them at least the sixth seed. The Chargers will square off against the Indianapolis Colts, Los Angeles Rams, and Denver Broncos. The Colts will start Nick Foles, and the Rams and Broncos are already out of the playoffs.
#7 Miami Dolphins: Second AFC East, 11th NFL
A team that has seen its ups and downs is the Dolphins. Earlier in the season, the team had a quarterback scare with Tua Tagovailoa when he was left twitching on the field after a gruesome hit. Yet, somehow, against all odds, the Dolphins have fought hard to sport an excellent 8-6 record as they have eyes on the playoffs. Even with the current three-game losing streak, their odds of making the playoffs are 60%, per the New York Times.
At 60%, they aren’t guaranteed to make it, but every win over the next three weeks will push that number higher. They will face the Green Bay Packers, New England Patriots, and New York Jets to close out the regular season. Home games against the Packers and Jets, and at the Patriots. It’ll be a tough schedule to finish the season with all three teams just outside of the wild card spots, but with a balanced offense and defense, they should find themselves in round one of the NFL postseason.
#8 New England Patriots: Third AFC East, 14th NFL
The Patriots have gone through quarterback changes, injuries at wide receiver, and injuries out of the backfield. Yet, somehow they still manage to stay afloat. The Patriots are 7-7 leading up to Week 16. Matt Patricia is currently on the hot seat as fans want him gone, especially from calling plays. Per the New York Times, the Patriots have a 28% chance of making the NFL playoffs. Not ideal for head coach Bill Belichick.
New England will play at home against the Bengals, home against the Dolphins, and away at the Bills to close out the regular season. Three top-notch teams. The Patriots will have their hands full with these three games, and there’s a chance they will go winless to close out the season. They are currently on a one-game losing streak after the crazy backward pass against the Las Vegas Raiders on Sunday.
#9 New York Jets: Fourth AFC East, 17th NFL
Head coach Robert Saleh has been able to turn the Jets’ season around. The team went from poor season after poor season, but they have a shot at making playoffs this year. Like many other teams on the bubble, injuries have hit this team hard. The team has started three different quarterbacks, a plethora of running backs, and wide receivers have been in and out. After 15 tough weeks, the Jets sit at 7-7. Per the New York Times, the Jets have a 27% chance of making the playoffs. Very similar to the Patriots, who sit slightly behind the Patriots. The Patriots swept the Jets this year, giving them the tiebreaker.
The Jets lead off the Week 16 slate at home against the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Jaguars are one spot behind the Jets and are also in the hunt for a wild card spot. The remaining games will be against the Seattle Seahawks and the Miami Dolphins. Playoffs are not guaranteed, but a win on Thursday Night Football is a step in the right direction.
AFC Teams With Six Or Less Wins That Still Have A Shot
Four of the remaining five teams still in the hunt are tied with a 6-8 record. The Jacksonville Jaguars, Las Vegas Raiders, Cleveland Browns, and the Pittsburgh Steelers. All four teams are two games back from finding themselves in the playoff picture, but it won’t be easy. All the dominos will have to fall in place along with winning out to secure that playoff spot. A loss in Week 16 will likely end their seasons as they move their eyes from the playoffs to the NFL draft next spring.
Oddly enough, the last team in the hunt has a 4-9-1 record. The Indianapolis Colts still have a shot at making playoffs, but the New York Times gave them less than a 1% chance to make playoffs. Hell would have to freeze over to get the Colts into the playoffs, which is very unlikely. In the NFL, the Colts are 27th in the league. It would set plenty of records if they somehow made playoffs and left everyone scratching their heads.
For the four 6-8 teams, here are their chances of making the playoffs, per the New York Times. The Jaguars have a 32% chance as they sit one game behind the struggling Titans at 7-7. The Raiders have a 6% chance. The Browns have a 1% chance. The Steelers have less than a 1% chance. Tune into Thursday Night Football as Week 16 is kicked off in MetLife Stadium. An AFC matchup between the Jacksonville Jaguars and the New York Jets.