It’s December and you all know what that means. We’re winding down the NFL’s regular season and looking towards the postseason. It’s exciting. It’s dramatic. It’s potentially all a little confusing.
Luckily for you, we here at Heavy are ready and willing to break down each and every division’s postseason potential (even the NFC East) and update each squad’s fans on what it’ll take for their team to make a run at a Super Bowl title this winter.
We’ve already seen a few teams clinch their playoff berths so far this season and things could get a little bit more concrete this week as well. Welcome to December football, everyone. It’s the most wonderful time of the year.
Here’s a look at the standings heading into Week 14, along with each team’s status.
1. New England Patriots
Record: 11-2; Current seed in AFC: 1; Week 14 matchup: Won 27-6 vs. Houston Texans; Playoff picture: New England clinched the AFC East title after defeating the Houston Texans on Sunday night and got a bit of help with Miami’s loss to the New York Giants on Monday. Remember when the Patriots lost two games in a row and the world was ending?
2. New York Jets
Record: 8-5; Current seed in AFC: 6; Week 14 matchup: Won 30-8 vs. Tennessee Titans; Playoff picture: The Jets have now won three straight for the first time since 2011 and have the makings of a team primed for a playoff run. Ryan Fitzpatrick is a touchdown throwing machine and Brandon Marhsall is more than able to catch them. Add in a defense fresh off one of its best performances in weeks and there’s plenty of reason for Gang Green to be excited.
3. Buffalo Bills
Record: 6-7; Current seed in AFC: In the hunt; Week 14 matchup: Lost 23-20 to Philadelphia Eagles; Playoff picture: This one hurt. The Buffalo Bills battled back to tie the game at 20 all in the final minutes of the fourth quarter, but a late Tyrod Taylor all but sealed the loss. It also might have sealed the Bills postseason potential and they could be on the outside looking in sooner rather than later.
4. Miami Dolphins
Record: 5-8; Current seed in AFC: Not In; Week 14 matchup: Lost 31-24 to New York Giants; Playoff picture: The Dolphins are officially out of the playoff hunt after a disappointing showing against New York on Monday night football.
1. Cincinnati Bengals
Record: 10-3; Current seed in AFC: 2; Week 14 matchup: Lost 33-20 to Pittsburgh Steelers 33-20; Playoff picture: Uh oh. Andy Dalton hurt his thumb. The Bengals lost and that means they didn’t clinch the the AFC North. Now, Cincinnati needs a win and a Steelers loss to clinch the division next week.
2. Pittsburgh Steelers
Record: 8-5; Current seed in AFC: In the hunt; Week 14 matchup: Won 33-20 vs. Cincinnati Bengals Playoff picture: Well, they needed a win and they got a win. But the Steelers still aren’t assured of a postseason berth. Pittsburgh would win a tiebreaker against Cincinnati if the Bengals lost to the Browns in Week 17, but an easier way to get into the playoffs is to win out.
3. Baltimore Ravens
Record: 4-9; Current seed in AFC: Not In; Week 14 matchup: Lost 35-6 to Seattle Seahawks; Playoff picture: Everything about the Baltimore Ravens has been sad this season. They’ve lost their quarterback, their star wide receiver, their starting running back and their defensive leader to injuries and have never quite been able to recover. No one is particularly blaming the Ravens for that. They all just want it to be over.
4. Cleveland Browns
Record: 3-10; Current seed in AFC: Not In; Week 14 matchup: Won 24-10 vs. San Francisco 49ers; Playoff picture: Oh, Cleveland. You’re always going to be you. Once again the Browns have made some interesting decisions as far as personnel and odds are pretty good that Cleveland is going to face some major offseason overhaul.
1. Indianapolis Colts
Record: 6-7; Current seed in AFC: 4; Week 14 matchup: Lost 51-16 to Jacksonville Jaguars; Playoff picture: The Colts lead the race for the South thanks to a head-to-head win over Houston already and could clinch the division with just two more victories if one of them is another win over Houston next week.
2. Houston Texans
Record: 6-7; Current seed in AFC: In the hunt; Week 14 matchup: Lost 27-6 to New England Patriots; Playoff picture: The Texans can still clinch the South with wins in their last three games, despite Sunday night’s loss.
3. Jacksonville Jaguars
Record: 5-8; Current seed in AFC: In the hunt; Week 14 matchup: Won 51-16 vs. Indianapolis Colts; Playoff picture: Here on the furthest edge of the postseason bubble, live the Jacksonville Jaguars. A loss to the Colts on Sunday afternoon would eliminate Jacksonville from playoff contention, but (and this is a big but) a win could jumpstart a late-season spark that could actually still keep Jacksonville in the South title hunt. Really.
4. Tennessee Titans
Record: 3-10; Current seed in AFC: Not In; Week 14 matchup: Lost 30-8 to New York Jets; Playoff picture: Go forth and feel good about yourselves Titans fans. Marcus Mariota is here and the future is bright. His 87-yard touchdown run aside last week, Mariota has proven himself to be a prime franchise QB and while the postseason is a bit out of reach this year, there are building blocks to make a change in 2016.
1. Denver Broncos
Record: 10-3; Current seed in AFC: 3; Week 14 matchup: Lost 15-12 to Oakland Raiders; Playoff picture: Some questionable decisions down the stretch led the Broncos to a loss at home on Sunday afternoon and kept their playoff future in just a bit of flux. Luckily Denver is still nursing a comfortable cushion in the division. The Broncos can clinch the West with a win and a Chiefs loss next week.
2. Kansas City Chiefs
Record: 8-5; Current seed in AFC: 5; Week 14 matchup: Won 10-3 vs. San Diego Chargers; Playoff picture: The Chiefs lead the race for the top Wild Card thanks to a better conference record (7-2) than the Jets (6-4) and the Steelers (5-4). It also helps that Kansas City already beat the Steelers this season.
3. Oakland Raiders
Record: 6-7; Current seed in AFC: Not In; Week 14 matchup: Won 15-12 vs. Denver Broncos; Playoff picture: It’s tough to be a Raiders fan. Only a few weeks ago it appeared that Oakland was ready for a major turnaround and primed for a playoff chase come December. Not quite. Instead, the silver and black have lost four of their past five and are more or less out of Wild Card contention.
4. San Diego Chargers
Record: 3-10; Current seed in AFC: Not In; Week 14 matchup: Lost 10-3 to Kansas City Chiefs; Playoff picture: Another team hurt by injuries and almost-there wins, the Chargers season has been a picture of Philip Rivers trying his best. A team that seems all but destined for Los Angeles, the Chargers desperately need some kind of run game if things are going to get better next season.
Click the next page button to check out the NFC standings and playoff picture.