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NFL Playoff Picture: AFC’s sixth spot up for grabs following Week 11

The Bills are still very much alive in the playoff conversation in a strange AFC race.

Matt Warren is Associate Director of NFL coverage for SB Nation and previously covered the Bills for Buffalo Rumblings for more than a decade.

The top five spots in the AFC didn’t change this week, despite a surprising result in the AFC West. They seem to be locked into those five positions while the rest of the conference fights near the .500 mark for the sixth and final playoff spot, claimed by the Buffalo Bills in 2017 with a 9-7 record.

The first four spots are reserved for divisional winners. In the AFC East, that’s he New England Patriots (7-3), who are two games clear of the Miami Dolphins (5-5). The New York Jets and Buffalo Bills are back at 3-7 with Buffalo holding a tiebreaker over New York currently.

In the AFC North, the Pittsburgh Steelers (7-2-1) are 2.5 games up on the 5-5 Cincinnati Bengals and Baltimore Ravens’. The Browns at 3-6-1 are better than they have been in the past.

The AFC South is always a tight race, and this year is no different with the 7-3 Houston Texans streaking, having won seven straight, and holding a two-game lead over the 5-5 Tennessee Titans and Indianapolis Colts. The Jacksonville Jaguars (3-7) are a mess.

The AFC West is setting up with two playoff teams in the 9-1 Kansas City Chiefs (who play on Monday Night Football) and the 7-3 Los Angeles Chargers. The Chargers are up two games on the next closest AFC Wild Card opponent and are squarely in the driver’s seat. The 4-6 Denver Broncos just beat the Chargers and 2-8 Oakland Raiders won, too.

So New England, Pittsburgh, Houston, Kansas City, and Los Angeles seem pretty confident. So the question really is, with the easiest schedule down the stretch, can the Bills make a run at the playoffs? Sure. Why not?

In Buffalo’s remaining games, only one team has a winning record (New England). They are actually ahead of both the Jaguars and Jets, who they play two games against down the stretch.

Here’s the complete playoff picture with tiebreakers included. No AFC team has been eliminated and it’ll be a couple weeks until that happens.

AFC Playoff Picture

  1. Kansas City Chiefs (9-1) *Still play on Monday Night
  2. Pittsburgh Steelers (7-2-1)
  3. New England Patriots (7-3, head-to-head win over HOU)
  4. Houston Texans (7-3, head-to-head loss to NE)
  5. Los Angeles Chargers (7-3)
  6. Baltimore Ravens (5-5, 2-3 in AFC North, 5-3 AFC)
  7. Miami Dolphins (5-5, 4-3 AFC record)
  8. Cincinnati Bengals (5-5, 1-2 in AFC North, 3-3 AFC, head-to-head win over IND)
  9. Indianapolis Colts (5-5, head-to-head win over TEN, 4-4 AFC, head-to-head loss to CIN)
  10. Tennessee Titans (5-5, head-to-head loss to IND)
  11. Denver Broncos (4-6, 1-5 AFC record)
  12. Cleveland Browns (3-6-1)
  13. Buffalo Bills (3-7, head-to-head win over NYJ, harder current strength of schhedule than JAX)
  14. Jacksonville Jaguars (3-7, 2-5 AFC record, 13 opponent wins)
  15. New York Jets (3-7, head-to-head loss to BUF and JAX)
  16. Oakland Raiders (2-8)