Just 6 weeks into the regular season, there is little consensus as to which teams are legitimate contenders, which are pretenders, which are under-perfoming with a shot, and which are stuck in the basement. So let’s take a quick look into January and see which AFC teams have the best chance to make the postseason:
#1 Seed – New England Patriots
The Patriots already have a 2-game lead over the Chiefs, which makes them a pretty good bet for taking the number 1 seed. Given how unbelievably strong this defensive unit is (on pace to shatter pretty much every defensive record) and how the “struggling” Patriots offense tends to find itself later in the year, there is no reason to believe that the road to the Super Bowl won’t go through Gillette for the AFC.
#2 Seed – Kansas City Chiefs
A rough 3-week stretch for Kansas City, with a near-loss to Detroit and then back-to-back losses to Indy and Houston. The team is quite banged up on both sides of the ball, including face of the franchise Patrick Mahomes, but these injuries should clear up over time. The Chiefs are still the deadly team that everyone expected them to be at the start of the year, and should, therefore, have no trouble beating out the AFC South and North victors for the bye week.
#3 Seed – Houston Texans
Deshaun Watson has continued to show that he’s a special talent who should be able to lead this Texans team to great things. An injury to offensive lineman Tytus Howard (out for several weeks) could expose the Achilles heel of this offense, but so far the transcendental talent at QB and WR have been able to make up for an iffy o-line. Defensively, Houston has been pretty middle-of-the-road, but given the offensive talent, weak division, and the overall badness of the AFC North, the Texans are a virtual lock for the #3 seed.
#4 Seed – Baltimore Ravens
Baltimore has certainly had their problems this year. After their Week 1 thrashing of the hapless Miami Dolphins, the Ravens have either narrowly beaten bad teams by 1 possession or lost. Lamar Jackson has certainly been able to silence many of his doubters, as he has shown a significant improvement in his passing ability to pair with his already elite running ability. Mark Andrews and Hollywood Brown have both balled out thus far, giving Jackson a nice arsenal to work with. However, the defense just isn’t what it used to be. The massive offseason departures have left the unit in the middle of the pack, but with the offense having taken a big step forward and the woes of the Browns and Steelers thus far, the Ravens should have no trouble winning the AFC North.
#5 Seed – Buffalo Bills
The wildcards are a whole lot harder to predict than the division winners, but the Bills have certainly made a strong argument in their favor to start the season. The defense has been suffocating, allowing just 14 points per game and leading Buffalo to a 4-1 start to the season. The offense has been problematic, but the return of explosive rookie Devin Singletary should help this unit put up a few more points per game, which is really all they need. The Bills also have a very easy schedule to close the season, so they should have a good shot at putting up 11 wins for the season. Unfortunately for the Bills, they are in the same division as the Patriots, so they may be stuck with the wildcard spot.
#6 Seed – Denver Broncos
This #6 seed is extremely up for grabs. A legitimate case can be made for Indianapolis, Oakland (believe it or not), Jacksonville, Tennessee, or LA, but Denver stands out as a dark horse candidate. The Broncos are coming off of 2 big wins against teams with playoff aspirations, and even before that they were very competitive in 3 of their 4 losses. Flacco has proven to be a serviceable starting QB (not worth his salary, but still ok). What’s really going to take this team into the postseason conversation, however, is their defense. Denver has quietly allowed less than 18 points per game, with their most recent outing being a shutout. There’s a big matchup this week against the Chiefs, but with a win there the Broncos would perhaps be able to ride their momentum right into the #6 seed.