The AFC playoffs have gone through Kansas City the last two seasons, but we’re on track for a new No. 1 seed this time around.
With the Titans beating the Dolphins and the Chiefs losing to the Bengals, Week 18 opens up with the Titans holding the top spot in the conference and they’ll stay there into the postseason as long as they beat the Texans this Sunday. A look at the standings makes it clear that they’ll be heavy favorites, but the Texans did get a win the first time the two teams played this season so the crown won’t be rewarded until they actually play the game.
The other intrigue in the conference comes with the final two Wild Card spots. The Colts have the inside track on one and they’ll need to win in Jacksonville for the first time since 2014 to sew it up. The Chargers and Raiders will be meeting on Sunday night with another playoff spot on the line while the Steelers and Ravens hope for chaos to reign in a way that allows them to sneak into the dance.
Here’s how the entire picture shapes up with one game left to play:
2. Chiefs (11-5) Their winning streak came to an end in Cincinnati, but they still look like they’ll be a handful in the postseason.
3. Bengals (10-6) With their first division title since 2015 in the bag, they’ll move on to trying for their first playoff win since 1990.
4. Bills (10-6) Holding serve against the Jets will give them a second straight division title and a good chance at round three against the Patriots.
5. Patriots (10-6) There’s nothing like playing the Jaguars when it comes to getting right on the scoreboard.
IN THE HUNT
6. Colts (9-7) The Colts stumbled against the Raiders, but, as noted with the Patriots, the Jaguars make it easy to get right.
7. Chargers (9-7) A win in Las Vegas on Sunday night would likely lead to another AFC West matchup in the Wild Card round.
8. Raiders (9-7) Plenty of people counted the Raiders out in early December, but they’ve proven to be a tougher team to eliminate than anyone expected.
9. Steelers (8-7-1) Monday night’s emotional sendoff to Ben Roethlisberger will be the lasting memory of an inconsistent season in Pittsburgh.
11. Ravens (8-8) Another close loss extended their losing streak to five games, but it didn’t quite erase their playoff chances.
10. Dolphins (8-8) While they technically rank above the Ravens in the standings, their path to the postseason ended with Sunday’s loss to the Titans.
12. Browns (7-9) A disappointing season will end against the Bengals and questions about their quarterback will be front and center this offseason.
13. Broncos (7-9) With the playoffs off the table, the Broncos can start asking their own quarterback questions while also determining Vic Fangio’s future.
14. Jets (4-12) They had the Buccaneers right where they wanted them, but a botched fourth down call left them lamenting another loss.
15. Texans (4-12) Playing spoiler against the Titans would be a happy way to end a rough season in Houston.
16. Jaguars (2-14) The Jaguars could also play spoiler this weekend, but there aren’t many signs of life in Jacksonville.