Familiar names and faces dot the AFC wildcard picture

Baltimore Ravens, Buffalo Bills, Cincinnati Bengals, Denver Broncos, Houston Texans, Jacksonville Jaguars, Kansas City Chiefs, Miami Dolphins, NFL, NFL Playoffs, Pittsburgh Steelers, Tennessee Titans

For the time being, every NFL team has a shot at the Wild Card, but the window is narrowing.

When it comes to post-season positioning, the AFC Wild Card race typically features the same group of names each year. The stability keeps certain fanbases hopeful and others consistently hopeless.

Let’s break down who is in the hunt.

The Race

  1. Buffalo Bills (5-2, +1)
  2. Jacksonville Jaguars (4-3, 1GB)
  1. Miami Dolphins (4-3, 1 GB)
  2. Baltimore Ravens (4-4, 1GB)
  3. Houston Texans (3-4, 1.5 GB)
  4. Cincinnati Bengals (3-4, 1.5 GB)
  5. Denver Broncos (3-4, 1.5 GB)
  6. New York Jets (3-5, 2 GB)
  7. Los Angeles Chargers (3-5, 2GB)
  8. Oakland Raiders (3-5, 2 GB)
  9. Indianapolis Colts (2-6, 3 GB)
  10. Cleveland Browns (0-8, 5 GB)

The Analysis

Buffalo Bills

It’s shocking that there is a very real chance that the Bills can dethrone the New England Patriots as the AFC East champs.

The Bills simply refuse to die. Even with the pedestrian Tyrod “T-Mobile” Taylor under center, Buffalo gets it done. Until they meet the Pats for the first time in Week 13, they have a string of very winnable games.

The last quarter of the season will determine their fate.

Jacksonville Jaguars

The Jaguars’ defense continues to get stronger. With the addition of DT Marcell Dareus, a ruthless defensive line has become savage. With added interior pressure, rising star Jalen Ramsey and his partners in the secondary can expect their turnover opportunities to increase.

Offensively, Jacksonville’s rookie-of-the-year candidate Leonard Fournette can carry the load all the way to the playoffs. Blake Bortles will either be what holds the team back or allows them to take the next step.

Miami Dolphins

Miami is the definition of a perennial Wild Card team. They are not dominant in any way, shape or form. They just exist in the space between good and mediocre.

Give them a lot of credit for overcoming injuries to two starting quarterbacks, turmoil on the coaching staff, and a very slow start.

The Dolphins are still standing. Despite taking a beatdown at the hands of the Baltimore Ravens, they have proven that they can hang in there. Wins over the Falcons and Titans could end up going a long way.

Baltimore Ravens

The Ravens have a stout defense which may help them navigate the AFC North standings. There is little-to-no information available on how long quarterback Joe Flacco will be out after suffering a brutal hit on Thursday.

What is known is that the Ravens have a very timely bye week over the horizon in Week 10.  Three out of their next four games are very winnable with the surging Houston Texans being their primary team of concern.

Houston Texans

Remember these words: Somehow, someway the Texans will claw their way into the playoffs.   The offensive heroics of Deshaun Watson are becoming the stuff of legend.

Eventually, defensive coordinator Mike Vrabel will cook up the right soup to get his guys going.  The Texans defense doesn’t have to a top unit to win, it just has to not bleed itself out like we saw on Sunday in Seattle. If that can happen, Houston is in business to compete for a Wild Card spot.

Denver Broncos

It seems like ages ago that the Denver Broncos were the type of team capable of massacring the Dallas Cowboys. Now they look nothing like the AFC West title contenders we thought the Broncos were at that time.

After dropping a key divisional game against the Kansas City Chiefs on Monday, Denver finds itself in need of a gut check. Losers in four out of its last five games, Denver looks unbalanced and unsure.

To get it done, Denver’s offense has to find a consistent running game. This will allow QB Trevor Siemian (or whoever is under center) to play within his means. This will keep their defense hungry.

Denver is built to play complementary football. As we’re seeing, very bad things happen when even one piece falls out of place.

Noteworthy Thoughts:

The Bengals are in bad shape when they can only beat a decimated Colts team by one point.  It could be time to either blow that team up or find a replacement for Marvin Lewis.

The Raiders regression will go down as one of the biggest disappointments of the season.

Will the Jets’ bid for respectability push them to play themselves out of a top 5 draft pick?

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