NFL: Gauging the Trends in AFC Playoff Picture, Including Pittsburgh Steelers


Let’s take a deep-dive view into the AFC playoff scene as we head into Week 12 of the NFL season.

Current AFC Playoff Seeds (Week 12)

Team Seeds Overall  Record AFC Record        KEY TREND POINTS 
1 New England8-2 (5-0 @ home)6-2 ⇑Winners of 6 straight games and have beat 5 of the 10 top AFC teams by 10+ points. Upcoming schedule includes NFC and AFC contenders: Detroit, @GB, @SD, Miami. If Patriots can continue to dominate the NFC, they will get likely have AFC home-field advantage in playoffs
2 Denver7-3 (5-0 @ home)5-1 ⇓Beat up by St Louis last week in 23-7 loss Injuries at RB and TE Julius Thomas hurt the Broncos at a particularly bad time-Peyton and December don’t always clickAll 6 remaining games are AFC Opponents including 4 playoff contenders (Miami, @KC, @SD, @Cincy)
3 Cincinnati6-3-14-3 ⇔Upcoming games include Pittsburgh twice, Cleveland, Denver, @ HoustonBengals are as unpredictable as their QB Andy DaltonAJ Green and Giovani Bernard are getting healthy just in time but the 30th ranked run defense must stop Arian Foster and Le’Veon Bell (2x)
4 Indianapolis6-45-3 The loss of Ahmad Bradshaw significantly hurts Indy’s chances in the upcoming cold weather road gamesDefense is on a downward spiral with recent catastrophic failures vs NE and PittsburghHalf of remaining opponents are below .500 with Houston, @Cleveland & @Dallas filling out the schedule
5 Pittsburgh 7-46-3 After their Week 12 bye, 3 of 5 final games are in Pittsburgh. Only AFC games on schedule are KC and 2 match-ups with Cincy. Now that they have found their rushing game, the offense is as unstoppable as any NFL team. If the defense can figure out how to consistently stop the run (Giovanni Bernard/Jeremy Hill, Jamaal Charles), they can take the AFC North Crown
6 Kansas City7-45-3 The window for stealing the AFC West just closed after a painful TNF loss to Oakland. Alex Smith has limited WR weapons to help him outduel upcoming opponents such as @Arizona, Denver, Baltimore and @Pittsburgh. A healthy Jamaal Charles and a favorable home field final stretch (4 of 6 games) still keep KC in the playoff conversation
7 Miami6-45-2 5 of 6 remaining games are AFC match-ups with road games in Denver and New England—a good test for the No. 4 defense in pts per game. Defense must overcome Ryan Tannehill, the AFC version of Jay Cutler
8 San Diego6-45-3 Chargers limp into the final six weeks losing 3 of their last 4; they also have the toughest schedule of all AFC playoff contenders: St Louis, @ Baltimore, NE, Denver, @ SF, @ KC. Chargers are 29th in rushing and QB Rivers has a chest injury
9 Baltimore6-43-4 ⇔Ravens face-off against 3 AFC playoff contenders with critical games @Miami and Houston. Ravens weak secondary is fortunate to face 3 of the NFL’s worst passing teams in last 6 regular games but won’t be as lucky if they make the playoffs
10 Cleveland6-44-4 ⇔Browns need Josh Gordon to provide an immediate boost—Browns have scored 30+ points just once this season. The Browns have overcame numerous injuries on defense but Cleveland in December won’t be easy on the last men they have standing; that survivalist attitude could also drive them into the playoffs
11 Houston5-54-2 Will Ryan Mallet be the spark to push the Texans into the playoff race? Weapons like De’Andre Hopkins & Andre Johnson were wasted behind the arm of Ryan Fitzpatrick. JJ Watt and Arian Foster are a bonus for a December Texan charge

Predicting Changes in the Top Six

The Houston Texans and Pittsburgh Steelers have the best chance to push their way into first place within their division and secure a playoff berth. Their respective divisional leaders, the Indianapolis Colts and Cincinnati Bengals, have defenses that are struggling against the run which does not bode well for December football.

The Kansas City Chiefs appear to be the most vulnerable to fall out of the playoff top six. The Miami Dolphins seem poised to take their place but Ryan Tannehill must stop giving the ball away. He has already produced 10 turnovers this season.

With a 4-4 conference record the Browns have slim chances of managing their first playoff berth since 2002. However, with four AFC games left on their schedule they could surprise, or play spoiler to the Bengals, Ravens or Colts.