Just six weeks remain in the NFL’s regular season, and to the surprise of many, a team other than the New England Patriots sits atop the AFC standings.
That would be the Oakland Raiders, who at 8-2 have the edge on the 8-2 Patriots thanks to a strength of victory tiebreaker.
Here’s a look at the current AFC playoff picture entering Week 12, plus a peek at each team’s remaining schedule:
1. Oakland Raiders (8-2)
vs. Panthers, vs. Bills, at Chiefs^, at Chargers, vs. Colts, at Broncos
2. New England Patriots (8-2)
at Jets, vs. Rams, vs. Ravens+, at Broncos, vs. Jets, at Dolphins
3. Houston Texans (6-4)
vs. Chargers, at Packers, at Colts, vs. Jaguars, vs. Bengals#, at Titans
4. Baltimore Ravens (5-5)
vs. Bengals, vs. Dolphins, at Patriots+, vs. Eagles, at Steelers, at Bengals
5. Kansas City Chiefs (7-3)
at Broncos+, at Falcons, vs. Raiders^, vs. Titans, vs. Broncos*, vs. Chargers
6. Denver Broncos (7-3)
vs. Chiefs+, at Jaguars, at Titans, vs. Patriots, at Chiefs*, vs. Raiders
In the hunt: Miami Dolphins (6-4), Pittsburgh Steelers (5-5), Indianapolis Colts (5-5), Buffalo Bills (5-5)
— The Patriots’ remaining schedule looks like the easiest of the bunch. Here’s a rundown of quarterbacks they’ll be facing the rest of the way: Ryan Fitzpatrick, Jared Goff, Joe Flacco, Trevor Siemian, Fitzpatrick/Bryce Petty, Ryan Tannehill. Not exactly a murderers’ row. Week 15 in Denver will be a challenge, though, especially given New England’s recent struggles at Mile High.
— Houston’s schedule isn’t too imposing, either, but ever since their shutout loss to the Patriots way back in Week 3, I haven’t viewed the Texans as anything more than a one-and-done in the playoffs. They should win the AFC South — easily the league’s worst division — but I’d be stunned if they survive until the divisional round.
— With three teams in the current playoff picture, the AFC West looks like the best division in football this season. The Raiders, Chiefs and defending champion Broncos all look like legit playoff teams, albeit ones with flaws. All three play each other more than once over the final six weeks, however, meaning the division could cannibalize itself and allow a bubble team like the Dolphins or Steelers to sneak into the dance.
* = Sunday night
+ = Monday night
^ = Thursday night
+ = Saturday night
Thumbnail photo via Erich Schlegel/USA TODAY Sports Images
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