Barring an epic flop, the Patriots are going to win the AFC East for the 14th time in the last 16 seasons.
There isn’t anything close to that much clarity in any of the other divisions in the AFC. The Raiders currently hold the top seed in the conference, but they are just a game up on the Chiefs with a Thursday matchup at Arrowhead Stadium looming as a major factor in deciding the AFC West.
Neither of the other divisions have a team with even that slim a lead heading into the final four weeks of the season. The Ravens and Steelers are both 7-5 with a Christmas Day game on the schedule while the Texans’ three-game losing streak leaves them with a 6-6 record. The Titans have the same mark and the Colts could make it a three-way dance by beating the Jets on Monday night.
In other words, there’s a lot to sort out in the AFC.
1. Raiders (10-2): More late heroics have Oakland on top, but it will be fleeting if they can’t win in Kansas City.
2. Patriots (10-2): The Patriots could end Week 14 with both a division title and a first-round bye.
3. Ravens (7-5): Four home wins in the last five weeks have righted the ship in Baltimore, but they’re closing out the year by going on the road three of the next four weeks.
4. Texans (6-6): Houston will be hosting the Super Bowl, but the Texans need to find themselves in a hurry if they’re going to have any shot of playing in it.
5. Chiefs (9-3): A win on Thursday gives them a big tiebreaker advantage with a season sweep of the Raiders.
6. Broncos (8-4): They survived in Jacksonville and will be in the playoffs if they win out, although that’s a big if with the Titans, Patriots, Raiders and Chiefs left on the schedule.
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7. Dolphins (7-5): Their winning streak and their time in playoff position ended in Baltimore, so Miami will need some help from others to climb the ladder again.
8. Steelers (7-5): Three straight double-digit wins have the arrow pointed up for Pittsburgh.
9. Titans (6-6): A bye week offered some rest for Tennessee ahead of their final playoff push.
10. Bills (6-6): Blowing a 15-point lead in the final 24 minutes might have been the last gasp for Buffalo’s playoff aspirations.
11. Colts (5-6): If the Colts beat the Jets, they’ll be in position to make a run at the division crown. If they can’t beat the Jets, they probably don’t deserve a playoff spot.
12. Chargers (5-7): It was a long shot before they lost a home game to the Bucs.
13. Bengals (4-7-1): They looked better on Sunday than they have in weeks, but that has more to do with draft positioning than the playoff race at this point.
14. Jets (3-8): They can play spoiler on Monday night, but their own season was spoiled long ago.
15: Jaguars (2-10): When your quarterback calls the year “the biggest nightmare possible,” there’s not much left to say.
16: Browns (0-12): Four chances left to avoid a winless season in Cleveland.