Charles LeClaire I/USA Today Sports

AFC playoff picture: Steelers, Patriots separate themselves from pack setting up Week 15 showdown

Ryan Hannable
November 28, 2017 - 10:12 am

The NFL season is getting set for the stretch run and although the AFC isn’t as good as the NFC, there’s still a lot to be decided over the final month when it comes to the postseason.

As it relates to the Patriots, if everything goes as planned, the meeting with Pittsburgh on Dec. 17 will decide who is the No. 1 seed in the AFC, as both are currently 9-2.

Here's a look at the AFC playoff picture as of now.

1. Steelers (9-2)

Remaining schedule: at Bengals (4-6), vs. Ravens (6-5), vs. Patriots (9-2), at Texans (4-7), vs. Browns (0-11)

2. Patriots (9-2)

Remaining schedule: at Bills (6-5), at Dolphins (4-7), at Steelers (9-2), vs. Bills (6-5), vs. Jets (4-7)

3. Titans (7-4)

Remaining schedule: vs. Texans (4-7), at Cardinals (5-6), at 49ers (1-11), vs. Rams (8-3), vs. Jaguars (7-4)

4. Chiefs (6-5)

Remaining schedule: at Jets (4-7), vs. Raiders (5-6), vs. Chargers (5-6), vs. Dolphins (4-7), at Broncos (3-8)

5. Jaguars (7-4)

Remaining schedule: vs. Colts (3-8), vs. Seahawks (7-3), vs. Texans (4-7), at 49ers (1-10), at Titans (7-4)

6. Ravens (6-5)

Remaining schedule: vs. Lions (6-5), at Steelers (9-2), at Browns (0-11), vs. Colts (3-8), vs. Bengals (5-6)

Still in the running

Bills (6-5)

Remaining schedule: vs. Patriots (9-2), vs. Colts (3-8), vs. Dolphins (4-7), at Patriots (9-2), at Dolphins (4-7)

Bengals (5-6)

Remaining schedule: vs. Steelers (9-2), vs. Bears (3-8), at Vikings (9-2), vs. Lions (6-5), at Ravens (6-5)

Chargers (5-6)

Remaining schedule: vs. Browns (0-10), vs. Redskins (5-6), at Chiefs (6-5), at Jets (4-7), vs. Raiders (4-7)

Raiders (5-6)

Remaining schedule: vs. Giants (2-9), at Chiefs (6-5), vs. Cowboys (5-6), at Eagles (10-1), at Chargers (5-6)

ANALYSIS

With the Jaguars’ loss to the Cardinals this week, it all but says the No. 1 seed will come down to the Patriots and Steelers. Looking at their remaining schedules, the Dec. 17 meeting will decide the top spot in the AFC. Even if one of the two teams drop another game, the winner of that game would get the tiebreaker and thus earn the No. 1 seed. Pittsburgh’s meeting with Baltimore the week before facing New England is a potential game to watch as a potential loss for the Steelers.

The No. 3 and 5 seeds will either be Tennessee or Jacksonville. The winner of the AFC South will get the No. 3 seed and the loser will in all likelihood be the first wild card as the No. 5 seed. The two teams meet in the final week of the season, which ultimately could decide who gets what seed.

The AFC West is still completely up for grabs with the Chiefs’ struggles of late. Kansas City, Oakland and Los Angeles are all in the mix, but the Raiders are in a tough spot with Michael Crabtree’s two-game suspension and Amari Cooper’s injury. They also have a very difficult remaining schedule. The Chargers have the inside track to winning the division, and thus getting the No. 4 seed. Their only tough game remaining is against the Chiefs in Week 15. Kansas City’s schedule isn’t too difficult either, which could mean the winner of the Week 15 game will win the division. The Chiefs need to get things together though, as they have lost three straight and are 1-4 in their last five.

As for the No. 6 seed, the Ravens and Bills have advantage at 6-5 with the rest of the teams at 5-6, but Buffalo has a tough schedule the rest of the way, including two games against the Patriots. A sleeper is the runner-up in the AFC West of either the Chiefs or Chargers. The Bengals appear to have too tough of a schedule to play a factor. This should come down to Week 17.