It’s shaping up to be a wild last 7 weeks of the NFL season in the American Football Conference Wild Card. There are still up to at least 7 teams who are vying to get a hold of at least one of the final two playoff spots. If the playoffs began today, the Pittsburgh Steelers and Buffalo Bills would have punched their ticket to the postseason as they currently hold each of the two coveted wild card spots. The New York Jets, Kansas City Chiefs, Oakland Raiders and Miami Dolphins are all on the outside looking in. However, luckily for them there is still plenty of football left to be played. Let’s take a look at how each of these teams schedules will play out the rest of the season and which two organizations will be playing in week 18:
AFC Wild Card Picture
Pittsburgh Steelers (6-4)
(Remaining Schedule: Bye, @Sea, Ind, @Cin, Den, @Bal, Cle)
The Steelers may be sitting atop of the wild card right now but I’m afraid they won’t be their for much longer. It was reported that Ben Roethlisberger was going to be out for a few weeks with a sprained foot, but with the injury to backup quarterback Landry Jones early in the game against the Cleveland Browns, Roethlisberger had no choice but to come in and help his team to a win. However, even with a healthy Roethlisberger I don’t think it will be enough to hang on to a playoff spot, especially without their superstar tailback, Le’veon Bell. The Steelers still have to go on the road to face the Seattle Seahawks, Cincinnati Bengals and Baltimore Ravens. If they are able to take 2 out of those 3 games, they’ll have a chance, but it’s going to be tough.
Buffalo Bills (5-4)
(Remaining Schedule: @NE, @KC, Hou, @Phi, @Was, Dal, NYJ)
It’s no secret that the Bills defense is legit. They are able to keep the game close and give their offense a shot at winning. Although they have to go on the road for 4 of their next 5 games, I can see them being favored in all 5 of those games. The Patriots losing Julian Edelman is going to benefit the Bills next week at Gillette Stadium. Tyrod Taylor will need to keep playing consistent football and continue to feed the electrifying Sammy Watkins. If LeSean McCoy can remain healthy and the Bills continue to run the ball the way they have been, this team has a chance to make some noise the rest of the way, especially with head coach Rex Ryan creating his own.
New York Jets (5-4)
(Remaining Schedule: @Hou, @NYG, Ten, @Dal, NE, @Buf)
It’s always a mystery trying to figure out which Jets team is going to come out and play every week. This team is highly inconsistent on both sides of the ball, which is why I can’t see them getting a hold of a playoff spot. The defense is suppose to be the anchor for this football team but the way they have been playing the past couple of weeks, I can’t see them winning many more games down the stretch. Ryan Fitzpatrick’s status for next week is still uncertain after having thumb surgery. Therefore, if the Jets have to rely on Geno Smith, it’s all but over for them.
Kansas City Chiefs (4-5)
(Remaining Schedule: @SD, Buf, @Oak, SD, @Bal, Cle, Oak)
The Chiefs could have easily folded this season once they lost their star tailback, Jamaal Charles. However, I have to give this team credit because they continue to fight, win games and now find themselves in the hunt for a playoff spot. Unfortunately, even though they have won 3 straight games, it’s not going to be enough to keep them in the hunt for much longer. Sure their defense is one of the best in the league and difficult for any team to come into Arrowhead and get a win, but the loss of Charles will evidently be what keeps this team on the outside. Their schedule moving forward is just to tough to be able to stay in the race. They have to face the improved Bills as well as the up and coming Oakland Raiders twice.
Oakland Raiders (4-5)
(Remaining Schedule: @Det, @Ten, KC, @Den, GB, SD, @KC)
Speaking of the surprising Raiders, despite losing their last two games against quality opponents, going forward they have a pretty manageable schedule. These next two games will determine the Raiders fate this season. Although they are both on the road, they’re against two teams with a combined record of 4-14. If Oakland is capable of coming out with a win in both games, which they certainly are, then they’ll be right there fighting against the Steelers and Jets for the final wild card spot. The Raiders hold the head-to-head tie breaker over the Jets but not the Steelers. What’s going to be key for the Raiders and whether or not they make the playoffs will all come down to the defense. They’ve managed to do well against the run but in order for this team to have a chance they will have to improve their pass defense.
Miami Dolphins (4-5)
(Remaining Schedule: Dal, @NYJ, Bal, NYG, @SD, Ind, NE)
Looking at the Dolphins upcoming schedule, combined with their current record, it may be all but over for this team this season. Since the firing of head coach, Joe Philbin, this team has played very well. However, it might just be a little to late to try and overcome their slow start. The loss of Cameron Wake on defense is going to hurt them down the stretch. Without having arguably their best defensive player on the field, leads to having to trust the offense to score points and it will be simply hard to do that in itself. Don’t get me wrong, Ryan Tannehill is a good quarterback but he is highly inconsistent. Lamar Miller has been playing great as of late but will he be able to keep it up and put the offense on his back?
In the end, it’s going to come down to four teams with Buffalo and Oakland claiming both wild card spots based on their strength of schedule as well as not having any key players out or missing significant time.
Buffalo Bills (10-6)
Oakland Raiders (9-7)
Pittsburgh Steelers (8-8)
New York Jets (8-8)