Sifting through AFC Wild Card mess: Several teams in a conference of mediocrity battle for a chance to take on Brady’s Patriots

By Brian Abbate, A&E Editor

      As the NFL regular season enters its final month, a playoff push will begin for many teams in the very pathetic AFC. Some teams, like the Patriots and Steelers, will clinch a playoff berth very soon. Both squads see little to no real threat within their divisions, and barring any unforeseen nose-dives, will watch the first round of the playoffs on their couches. But what other AFC teams will make this season’s playoff bracket?

       Currently in the third seed is the Tennessee Titans, who, at 7-4, own the tiebreaker over their divisional rivals, the Jacksonville Jaguars. With the same record, both teams will look to jump ahead of the other. The Titans and Jags both have relatively favorable schedules remaining for with the exception of the Seahawks for Jacksonville and the surprising Rams for Tennessee. The Jags and Titans face off in the final week of the regular season, which will most likely determine the division winner and therefore who will earn the three seed instead of the five seed, granting them a home playoff game.

       The Jaguars are definitely the better team, with a frightening secondary and solid rushing game brought to you by rookie Leonard Fournette. The Titans are a head-scratcher, as they were blown out by the Texans (57-14, yeesh) and beaten by the abysmal Dolphins, but have victories over the Jags and Seahawks.

      The Jags lost to the New York Jets. That alone should disqualify them from making the playoffs, but they also lost to the Cardinals last week, led by former first-round Jags’ pick, Blaine Gabbert. But Jacksonville also dismantled the Steelers and humiliated the Ravens across the pond. It truly is an odd year. I expect the Jags to win the division and the Titans to get a wild card spot. My goodness, the AFC is a joke.

      Speaking of jokes, the Kansas City Chiefs currently sit in the fourth seed of the AFC playoffs, even though they’ve lost five straight games after beginning the season 6-0. Alex Smith is playing poorly, after starting the season as an MVP candidate, and fans are demanding that rookie Patrick Mahomes II start in his place. The defense has given up far too many points and they’ve lost back to back games to the Giants and Bills. Yikes.

      The red-hot Los Angeles Chargers (it still feels weird saying that, R.I.P San Diego Chargers), however, are just one measly game behind the Chiefs now, after a very disappointing 0-4 start on the season. With remaining games against the Browns, Redskins, Jets, Chiefs and Raiders, the Chargers, (who carry all the momentum right now), can very easily dethrone the Chiefs as the AFC West champs. The teams will duke it out in week 15 for fourth seed supremacy in the AFC.

     The current six seed is the Baltimore Ravens, whose offense is harder to watch than an Owen Wilson flick. Joe Flacco is not elite. There, I said it, and now you can sleep soundly tonight. The running game has been inconsistent (though Alex Collins is surely a bright spot, averaging nearly five yards a carry) and while the offense at large hasn’t been anything special, the stellar defense is what has kept the Ravens in so many games thus far.

     With three key division games remaining, the Ravens can solidify that six seed if they can upset the Steelers, while beating the Browns and Bengals. It also wouldn’t hurt if they could take down the Lions, and since they’re playing at home, where their defense has been historically good, it’s entirely possible. Beating the Colts should be doable, too. I expect the Ravens to earn the sixth and final playoff spot in the AFC with nine wins.

      That would make the playoff bracket look something like this. 1) Patriots – bye week 2) Steelers – bye week 3) Jaguars 4) Chargers 5) Titans 6) Ravens. Here are my predictions:

        Wildcard round

      3 Jaguars vs. 6 Ravens – Jaguars win 20-10

      4 Titans vs. 5 Chargers – Chargers win 23-14

      Divisional round

       1 Patriots vs. 5 Chargers – Patriots 17-14

      2 Steelers vs. 3 Jaguars – Steelers 27-21

       Championship Game

      1 Patriots vs. 2 Steelers – I want to pick the Steelers but the Pats always beat the Steelers as of late. But it could happen! Steelers 20, Patriots 16.