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AFC playoff picture 2022: Three big questions remain

With five of seven spots clinched, there isn’t a ton to suss out over the final two weeks of the season

Buffalo Bills v Chicago Bears Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

There are only two weeks remaining in the 2022 NFL regular season, and with five of seven spots decided in the AFC playoff picture, the final two games on each contender’s schedule carry a huge amount of importance. Three teams are vying for the No. 1 seed and the first-round bye and home-field advantage it carries. Two teams will duke it out in Week 18 for a division title. And a whopping seven teams are in on the final wild card spot in the conference.

With so much to be settled, the ensuing chaos can be boiled down to three big questions that have yet to be answered.

Who will be the No. 1 seed?

We know that the Buffalo Bills (12-3), the Kansas City Chiefs (12-3), and the winner of the AFC North — either the Cincinnati Bengals (11-4) or the Baltimore Ravens (10-5) — will be the top three seeds, in some order. Baltimore cannot be the No. 1 seed, however, as they cannot pass Buffalo in the standings — but Cincinnati can still reach that height.

The Bills currently hold the top seed by way of a head-to-head tiebreaker win over the Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium in Week 6. Cincinnati, one game back of both Buffalo and Kansas City, hosts the Bills on Monday Night Football this week. The Bengals also have a head-to-head tiebreaker win over the Chiefs this season.

Buffalo takes the top seed if they win out, or if they win and Kansas City loses in Week 17. Cincinnati takes the top seed with two wins and one Kansas City loss to close out the season. Kansas City takes the top seed in all other scenarios.

Who will clinch the final wild card?

The AFC North team that does not win the division — Cincinnati or Baltimore — has one spot sewn up, and the second belongs to the Los Angeles Chargers (9-6), who clinched with their win on Sunday Night Football in Week 16.

That leaves five teams vying for the final wild card spot: the Miami Dolphins (8-7), the New England Patriots (7-8), the New York Jets (7-8), the Pittsburgh Steelers (7-8), and the Las Vegas Raiders (6-9).

Only the Dolphins have the ability to clinch that final spot in Week 17; they can do so with a road win over the Patriots, plus a Jets loss to Seattle. That may be easier said than done, however, with starting quarterback Tua Tagovailoa back in the concussion protocol to start the week.

  • Dolphins: 74.9% (FO), 57% (NYT), 68% (538)
  • Patriots: 7.9% (FO), 21% (NYT), 17% (538)
  • Jets: 14.6% (FO), 17% (NYT), 10% (538)
  • Steelers: 1.5% (FO), less than 1% (NYT), 2% (538)
  • Raiders: 0.0% (FO), less than 1% (NYT), 0.7% (538)

Who will win the AFC South?

This will be either the Jacksonville Jaguars or the Tennessee Titans, regardless of what happens in Week 17. Both teams sit at 7-8 overall, but are headed in opposite directions; Jacksonville has won three straight games, while Tennessee has lost their last five. Jacksonville has a breakout star at quarterback in Trevor Lawrence, while Tennessee has likely lost its own starter, Ryan Tannehill, to an ankle injury.

The Titans will travel to Duval County, Florida to take on the Jaguars in Week 18. That game will decide the winner of the AFC South and, by extension, the No. 4 seed in the AFC playoff picture. This game is a very strong contender to be flexed to Sunday Night Football next week as the final game of the regular season, with obviously-important playoff implications.

  • Jaguars: 73.4% (FO), 53% (NYT), 61% (538)
  • Titans: 26.6% (FO), 47% (NYT), 39% (538)

AFC playoff picture, Week 17

1 z — Buffalo Bills 12-3 3-2 8-2 +157 W6
2 z — Kansas City Chiefs 12-3 4-0 7-3 +106 W3
3 x — Cincinnati Bengals 11-4 2-3 7-3 +85 W7
4 Jacksonville Jaguars 7-8 2-2 6-4 +22 W3
5 x — Baltimore Ravens 10-5 3-1 6-4 +49 W1
6 x — Los Angeles Chargers 9-6 2-3 7-4 -11 W3
7 Miami Dolphins 8-7 2-2 6-4 -5 L4
8 New England Patriots 7-8 2-2 5-5 +27 L2
9 New York Jets 7-8 2-3 5-6 +2 L4
10 Tennessee Titans 7-8 3-2 5-6 -43 L5
11 Pittsburgh Steelers 7-8 1-3 3-7 -55 W2
12 Las Vegas Raiders 6-9 3-2 5-6 -2 L1