The 2020 AFC playoff picture is looking mighty interesting. It truly began taking shape Monday night, when the Cleveland Browns and Baltimore Ravens played what looked and felt like an edge-of-the-seat playoff game.
AFC Playoff Picture 2020: Steelers, Chiefs at top; Browns clear wild-card
Cleveland Browns, Baltimore Ravens
After a dismal 25 years, the Browns don’t have to apologize for where they stand now. 9-4, wild card spot all but clinched. Kevin Stefanski is calm yet creative. Baker Mayfield is playing at the level he was supposed to all along. They don’t have many obstacles remaining. The New York Giants, New York Jets and Pittsburgh Steelers may rest their starters. The Browns and Ravens should both be playing Wild Card Weekend. Let’s take a look at how the rest of playoff picture is shaping up.
Kansas City Chiefs
The Chiefs don’t even have to win out to be the AFC’s top seed. Turns out that it’s possible for Patrick Mahomes to throw three interceptions in one game. But it’s still not enough to shake this powerhouse team. Travis Kelce could be the first tight end ever to lead the NFL in receiving yards. The Chiefs’ 12-1 record didn’t come easy but they have something special up their sleeves that will be on display soon.
They’ve all but won the AFC North and they are real Super Bowl Contenders. This conference has no real dominant defense, so Pittsburgh’s pass rush will easily carry them. However, their offensive passing game leaves plenty to be desired. They need to improve that dramatically. They will likely clinch the AFC North against the Cincinnati Bengals.
Their significantly improved defensive performance was the biggest development in the AFC this month. The Bills already won the AFC East and that it something they haven’t accomplished in 25 years. Their pass rush has declined slightly, but defense sits at 11th. With that, the Bills are capable of beating any team. Along with about seven other teams, they have a realistic chance of winning the Super Bowl.
The Colts had a convincing win against the Las Vegas Raiders, making their journey to the playoffs much easier. They can afford to rest their starters in week 17. They’re a complete team, and an AFC title game appearance is possible. However, they must face the Steelers, and they have enough weaknesses to prevent them from getting to the very top.
Home-field advantage isn’t a factor this season, which means coaches can experiment with different strategies for seeding. The Titans just need to decide what’s more important – improving to become the No. 4 seed by giving it everything in their final regular season game. Or resting their starters. They’ll face the Packers, which will be a challenging test.
The Dolphins need to win out against the New England Patriots, Raiders and Bills. They couldn’t have lost key players to injury at a worse time. Tua Tagovailoa is progressing well, but isn’t enough to carry the team. It will take a miracle for them to make a wild-card appearance.
Las Vegas Raiders
They’re about done. Their defense has let them down for the last three years. Offense is better, but not good enough. Winning against the Chargers and the Dolphins would keep them in the race until they face the Denver Broncos, but they can’t get far.
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