The Murky AFC Wild Card Picture

On a recent podcast, Cubsfan and myself discussed how we thought the playoff picture would shake out after seven weeks of football. This led Cubsfan and myself to a Board Bet. I believe the AFC Wild Cards will come from only the AFC North or AFC East. Cubsfan thinks the loser of the Houston/Tennessee division (in his mind Tennessee) can get a wild card. Either way, I think the wild card is completely up in the air. So who will earn a wild card birth? This post is dedicated to evaluating which team will get a birth and which will not. Below is the order of teams I believe have the greatest odds of getting that coveted 5th and 6th seed (i.e. the first team is the team I think has the greatest odds of getting a wild card spot and the last team is my team with the lowest "realisitc" chances of getting a wild card birth)

1) Buffalo Bills

Everyone I have talked to believes the Bills are getting at least one of the wild card spots


The Bills are currently second in the AFC East at 4-2. They only need to go 5-5 the rest of the way to get to nine wins which would put them in the wild card hunt. They play two games against Miami, one game versus the Denver Broncos and one game versus the Washington Redskins. That's essentially four wins right there.

They do play the New Jets twice, the Titans, the Cowboys, and at Chargers (in December). None of those are easy wins but only the Chargers really scare me. I think beating at least one of those teams is pretty realistic.

But even assuming the Bills lose all five of those games, that would put them at 4-5 going into Week 17- at the New England Patriots. I think the Pats will have far and away locked up the #1 seed in the AFC and thus take it easy on the Bills to allow Buffalo to squeak into the playoffs at minimum with a 9-7 record.

The Bills have one of the easiest schedule this year which I believe will propel them into the playoffs.


The Bills have a pretty bad defense (ranked 23rd in points per game allowed and 31st in yards per game allowed) and they have been winning games with their offense solely. This could be a problem come November and December. Fred Jackson is a beast and will be awesome all season but there's a reason Ryan Fitzpatrick is starting his first full season at the age of 28. Fitzpatrick has a pretty weak arm and this caused him to falter down the stretch last year and he's starting to do the same this year. If Buffalo's offense starts to fail and its defense continues to play like it does, then it won't matter how easy their schedule is because they will not be winning games.

2) Cincinnati Bengals

I personally believe the Bills will get the last wild card spot


I like the Bengals set up this year and a blog post is soon to come (hopefully) about how I am a fan of them this year.

The Bengals have a damn good defense, can run the ball pretty well, and Andy Dalton hasn't been a complete disaster this year. To me, the Bengals are set up like the San Francisco 49ers and the Baltimore Ravens: Great defense, can run the ball, and have a QB who's not turning the ball over like Jay Cutler in his first season in Chicago.

This year the Bengals rank 4th in the NFL in points allowed per game. When you have a stingy defense like that, then you're setting yourself up for good things to come. Cedric Benson has been pretty effective this year as well. While not lighting up the league like Fred Jackson or Matt Forte has this year, he's been solid and consistent. Plus, his suspension is only for one game.

The Bengals, like the Bills, also have a pretty easy schedule.

They still have to play Seattle, Cleveland, St. Louis, and Arizona which I believe is a guaranteed four wins right there. Plus, they also play Houston at home; while, to me, that is not a guaranteed win, is a game they very easily could win.


The biggest thing holding the Bengals back is that they play in the same division as the Baltimore Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers. All three of these teams only have two loses and all three of these teams a) face the NFC West and b) face each other. Cincy still has to play Baltimore twice and face the Steelers in Heinz Field. Not only can I see the Bengals losing all three games but because those teams are obviously division rivals could force Cincy into a deficit that they can't crawl out of.

Plus, while I kind of like the play of Andy Dalton and Cedric Benson this year, the Bengals still only rank 21st in rushing yards and 20th in passing yards.

Lastly, while the Bengals rank 3rd in the in points allowed, Baltimore and Pittsburgh rank 1st and 2nd respectively.

3) Pittsburgh Steelers

I personally believe the Steelers will not make the playoffs this year


The biggest pro is that they're winning their division at 5-2 (However the Steelers have not had their bye and Baltimore and Cincy have. All teams have 2 loses but the Steelers have an extra win). The Steelers still have an amazing defense though (as I mentioned earlier they are second in the AFC in terms of points allowed per game to opposing teams) and they still have this little guy called Ben Roethlisberger.


The first Con is the Steelers schedule. They have already played Seattle and Arizona- two teams the Cincinnati Bengals have not played. The Steelers have a pretty tough schedule the rest of the way. They have to face the New England Patriots next week (1. even though the Steelers are at home, Tom Brady's Patriots own Rosethlisberger's Steelers in Pittsbugh and 2. the Bengals do not have to play the Pats) as well as the Bengals away, the Ravens at home, at San Francisco, and at Arrowhead. They do get the Cleveland Browns twice and get the St. Louis Rams at home but that schedule is tougher than the Bengals.

I also do not trust the Steelers defense. I know they have not allowed a lot of people to score and there are actually first in terms of passing yards allowed, but I just don't trust them. It may be an irrational thought, but this Steelers defense seems weak (well, at least weaker than it historically has been) and beatable.

Lastly, I think this offense will falter down the stretch- mainly because of their terrible offensive line. I know that team has Big Ben and Rahsard Mendenhall and my boy Mike Wallace, but there's a certain level of confidence that I just don't have of those guys because of that terrible O-line. Also, Mendenhall has been terrible this year. He ranks 44th in the NFL in terms of YPC with 3.7.

4) New York Jets

I never trusted the Jets to make it to the playoffs. In an earlier podcast, when Cubsfan and I were first going through the AFC and predicting who will get a wild card spot, I immediately said the Jets would not make it. I later predicted the Jets to get a wild card spot but I said it with disgust and only out of default (If Peyton Manning was healthy this year I would have predicted the Texans to get a wild card spot over the Jets originally).


The Jets have made it to the AFC Championship two years in a row. The core of those two teams is still in place and they still have Rex Ryan at the helm (despite what you may think if him because of press conferences or whatnot, he still is a great defensive coach and damn fine head coach).

The Jets also have to play the Buffalo Bills twice and despite how much I like the Bills, the Jets can realistically win both of those games. That will give the Jets a four game advantage over the Bills and put them in the driver's seat to make it into the playoffs.


This defense is just not the same as it was the past two years. They are 14th in the NFL in terms of points allowed behind teams like the Chicago Bears, Seattle Seahawks, and Cleveland Browns. You can also run on the Jets, which means once you take any sort of lead (which is not hard to do considering the Jets offense) it's a lot easier than before to keep it. Before, the Jets could overcome their offense because of their stingy defense, but that's just not true this year.

And speaking of the Jets offense, they have a quarterback who can't throw effectively and a running back who can't run effectively. While Mark Sanchez is not right now a bottom five quarterback, I would rather have Cam Newton, Andy Dalton, Blaine Gabbert, or Christian Ponder to start my franchise than Mark Sanchez. Sanchez is a QB with accuracy issues- which never bodes well for the QB position. Shonn Greene has also been pretty bad this year with his 3.8 YPC- good for 43rd in the NFL.

5) Oakland Raiders

I believe now that Jason Campbell has gone down and now that Antonio Gates is playing that the San Diego Chargers are going to win the AFC West.


Because the Bills and Jets are in the same division and that Bengals and Steelers are in the same division that they could beat up on each other so that the Raiders can sneak into a spot. They also have this little guy named Darren McFadden that can take over games.


I don't think the Raiders are as good of a team as the first four I mentioned. They have an average to below average defense and I don't think their quarterback play against the Chiefs in Week 7 was THAT big of a fluke. Carson Palmer will be their quarterback for the rest of the season and he has had no time to become acclimated to their system or get a feel for their receivers. While McFadden can take over games, Carson Palmer can lose games.

6) Houston Texans/Tennessee Titans

I know the Texans just defeated the Titans in Week 7 and won big but with Gary Kubiak as their coach, with the way they've played the past two season, and with Mario Williams out for the year and Andre Johnson out for a significant amount of time, I don't think it's lock that the Texans will win this division.

I don't think the loser of this division will get a wild card spot. As of right now the Texans have the 4th seed in the AFC (the worst of all division winners) and the Tennessee Titans are 10th. I just can't wrap my head around the fact that second place in the AFC South can have a better record than any team I just mentioned.

7) Baltimore Ravens

The reason I have the Ravens as the lowest of all these teams is because I believe they will win the division and I believe they are the second best team in the AFC. I know they just lost to the Jacksonville Jaguars, but they also have the best defense in the league and I can not imagine a scenario where the Steelers and Bengals make it to the playoffs and the Ravens do not. Plus, they have a top three running back in the game in Ray Rice- who is a better running back than anyone any of these teams mentioned in this post have (except for maybe Arian Foster in Houston).