The NFL is, and has always been, a battle of the haves vs. the have nots. While that’s certainly the case in the NFC, the AFC exemplifies that statement to a more extreme point.
At the top of the AFC, teams such as the Broncos, Chiefs and Patriots dominate with iron fists. Few teams are anywhere near their level at this point. Then there’s a couple of middle of the road teams. These would be the Colts and the Bengals. While they’re not dominating their division, there’s also no apparent challenger coming out of the AFC North or South. They’re the de-facto hegemonic powers of their respective divisions.
And then there’s the rest of the pack.
To this point, we’ve mentioned five likely playoff teams from the AFC. Sure, there’s still time for one of them to fall by the wayside, but that’s not likely. With five playoff positions down, that leaves one spot to be filled by one of the plethora of mediocre teams populating the AFC at this point.
The Dolphins, Jets, Ravens, Browns, Titans and Chargers are all within a game of each other and that final playoff slot. In addition, the Bills, Texans, Raiders and even the Steelers are still very much in play should they catch fire at any point during the season.
This season just doesn’t resemble a year in which a low-seeded team can make a deep playoff run. The difference between the best and the rest is just too great. The middle teams we made note of above could make a run if luck is on their side, but the bottom dwellers don’t have a chance, and that likely stands true in both conferences, not just the AFC.
After six weeks of football, there’s only a few teams that have truly been eliminated from the playoff race, and even those teams have some hope if they were able to miraculously start winning games. Usually 10-6 is the magic mark that playoff teams have to reach to make it into the tournament, but that may not be true this year. With division leaders hanging around the .500 mark and the last wildcard spot in the AFC up for grabs, it wouldn’t be surprising to see a 9-7 or even 8-8 team sneak into the playoffs, but if that does happen, don’t expect that team to make a deep playoff run.