(Image credit Tommy Gilligan /USA Today Sports)
Written by: Nicholas Mullick
Always once the Thanksgiving week for the NFL ends, I start to look at the playoff picture as it currently states. I think it is too early to take a look at the NFL playoff picture until then as there is plenty of football left to be played. Now it is crunch time for some team. So until the playoffs hit I will continue to update the current playoff picture for both the AFC and NFC Conferences. For this article, I will dive into the AFC conference.
Division Winners (Seed 1-4)
1. Baltimore Ravens (8-3)
This is one of many teams in the AFC North that can be frustrating when analyzing them. The Ravens should not have as many wins as they do. Thank Justin Tucker as he has bailed them out on many games this season. Hopefully, the Ravens get healthier and be more consistent in future performances to lock up the AFC North. Every win is important for the Ravens.
2. New England Patriots (8-4)
I hate to say this but the Patriots are back and look to be the best team in the entire AFC Conference. With the Bills struggling, Dolphins disappointment, and Jets being awful this season the Patriots have a strong chance at winning this division if they keep their strong momentum up.
3. Tennessee Titans (8-4)
If this was earlier in the year I would say the AFC South division is all but the Titans but Indianapolis is sneaking up to the Titans and could take the division if things go right. The Titans are dealing with injuries but if they keep fighting hard they could still win this division. Imagine how strong the titans would be on offense and defense when they are healthy during playoff times.
4. Kansas City Chiefs (7-4)
It looks like the Kansas City Chiefs have woken up from their slump as they have been a lot better than they were at the beginning of the season. This week they are coming off a bye so they should be healthier and prepared to finish strong and take this division but I would keep an eye out on the Chargers and Raiders as they are not out of the woods yet in the running of the division.
Wildcard Teams (Seed 5-7)
5. Cincinnati Bengals (7-4)
This is the surprise team of the AFC North as I did not expect the Bengals to be this good. This season is absolutely going to save head coach Zac Taylor’s job. I still think there is a real chance they could win this entire division as the Ravens are inconsistent, Browns are beaten up, and the Steelers are incompetent. I am very excited to see how the Bengals go through this season and finish strong.
6. Buffalo Bills (7-4)
I have been very disappointed in the Bills as I thought they would be the best team in the conference. The Bills should have more wins than they have but they lost in games they should not have against the Jacksonville Jaguars, New Orlean Saints, and Pittsburgh Steelers. It is clear something is not right with the Buffalo Bills and hopefully, they fix that soon as they get to face New England and the Buccaneers in the next few weeks.
7. Los Angeles Chargers (6-5)
What is going on with the Los Angeles Chargers right now? They on paper should be a better team as they have the franchise QB, solid running back in Austin Eckler, a good WR Core, and an excellent o-line. Then you look at the defense and oh dear it has definitely regressed this season. I won't be shocked if the Chargers decided to build this defense during the offseason but they got to be better and quicker if the Chargers want to make the playoffs.
In the hunt
8. Las Vegas Raiders (6-5)
Despite the Dark Season, the Las Vegas Raiders have had they have been excellent and play tough. I got to give credit to Rich Bisaccia as he has done a solid job coaching this team. He is making a case for a future head coaching job in the league. Look at Dan Campbell when he took over as the Dolphins head coach when Joe Philbin was fired the first 4 games of the 2015 season. The Raiders are a team I am rooting for as they have had a dark season and I would love the Raiders to end it on a high note with a playoff appearance.
9. Denver Broncos (6-5)
I thought the Denver Broncos would be tanking the rest of the season after they traded their franchise face in Von Miller. I got, to be honest, this defense has looked a lot better without Von Miller on their team. Speaking of the trade deadline you know who has been a good addition, LB Kenny Young. He has been the piece they needed at middle linebacker. They absolutely need to re-sign him during the offseason. Imagine if the Broncos had consistency at quarterback and a good coach. Hopefully, Denver keeps this up and if they do they could be a playoff team.
10. Indianapolis Colts (6-6)
With the injuries that the Titans are dealing with this benefits the Indianapolis Colts as they have a real chance to possibly win the AFC South division. The Colts have been an up and down team but have had a better season now than they did earlier in the season. Heck, I was even wondering Why to sacrifice a top pick and not get leverage benching Wentz for a few games. But It is clear that the Colts are going all in for this season. I don't blame them at all because they are going to have to start extending some guys sooner rather than later. The Colts do have a bye in week 14 so they should be well prepared for the final few games of the season.
11. Pittsburgh Steelers (5-5-1)
This is a team that heavily frustrates me. They always have the ability to take a giant step forward but they make questionable and incompetent decisions that result in a step back. They have a QB that should be retired, an inconsistent defense, constantly plays down to competition, and a terrible coaching staff assembled by Mike Tomlin and the Steelers. Remind me Why is Mike Tomlin still the head coach for the Steelers Again? But the Steelers are in big trouble if they don't get their act together quickly due to how competitive the AFC North is.
12. Cleveland Browns (6-6)
If I can describe the Cleveland Browns in one word it would be injuries. This team is heavily beaten up on both sides of the team. It is clear that Baker Mayfield is playing with a serious injury. The defense has been excellent and is maintaining the injuries. The offense runs through the QB and if Baker has more injuries then I won't be shocked if Case Keenum starts. Thank goodness the Browns have a bye week for this week. By the way, the Browns have a tough schedule as excluding the incompetent Pittsburgh Steelers they got to face the Packers, Raiders, Ravens, and Bengals. That is a tough schedule and hopefully, Cleveland gets healthier.
13. Miami Dolphins (5-7)
The Dolphins have been a big disappointment this season after last season the team went 10-6 and missed the playoffs. This was a disappointing season and with how competitive and strong other AFC teams are it would be a miracle if the Dolphins do make the playoffs. Plus No Brian Flores should not be fired as the head coach of this team. He is not the reason why the Dolphins missed the playoffs. He is not at fault for the Dolphins making poor signings during the offseason and making questionable moves. If there is someone that is to blame it is GM Chris Grier. I would not say he is absolutely gone this season but Grier is on the hot seat.
14. New York Jets (3-8)
The Jets are a mess right now both on offense and defense. Their season has been over for a while but they have not looked good during their win against the Texans. The defense including the secondary is a dumpster fire. The Jets need to upgrade it during the offseason. Saleh has been a disappointing head coach. My Confidence in Zach Wilson has been at an all-time low and since the Jets will most likely miss the season I want to see players shine and fight to show that they belong in the long term.
15. Houston Texans (2-9)
I don’t even know what to say about the Houston Texans anymore as they are a complete mess. I am not surprised that they are completely terrible right now. They are a mess on offense, defense, coaching, and in their organization. I am not at all surprised that they are at the bottom of the AFC right now. I doubt they make the playoffs and I have no idea what they are going to do on their rebuild.
16. Jacksonville Jaguars (2-9)
I don’t know how they did it but the Jaguars managed to be a worse team than the Texans this season. Do you know how hard that is? Urban Meyer has been a complete dumpster fire as a head coach and I won't be shocked if he is one and done this season. I doubt they do it but boy Urban Meyer managed to make himself the head coach a major distraction in the locker room. The Jags season is also done and the Jaguars should focus on seeing the value they have now and start the next step of the rebuilding process.