The clock has officially hit 0:00 on the first half of the NFL season and to many, this is when the playoff teams start to establish themselves and run away from the pack. Other teams are still in discovery mode and have reset the button to rebuild for the next season. With nine weeks behind us, let’s look ahead to the second half of the season to see which AFC teams from last year will repeat in the 2018 playoffs.
Which 2017 AFC Teams Will Repeat In the 2018 NFL Playoffs?
The AFC Race Has Familiar Faces to Repeat In the Playoffs
The Old Faithful Teams
The New England Patriots who seem to always be a contender in the playoffs, had a 6-2 record after 9 weeks last year. They finished the 2017 season with a 13-3 record and represented the AFC in the Super Bowl. The Philadephia Eagles who were the 2017 winners of the coveted Lombardi trophy last season, were the only team to finally stop the Patriots. This season, they lead the AFC East with a 7-2 record and look to repeat their quest to the Super Bowl. The offense has been able to utilize the additions of Josh Gordon and Cordarrelle Patterson as the year continues. Look for the Patriots to spread the ball around the field and use their skill players in new positions.
The Pittsburgh Steelers, representing the AFC North were looking at a 6-2 record midway through the season last year. Led by quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, they were matched evenly with New England. This season, however, they are without star running back Le’Veon Bell whose production was key in the Steelers offensive game planning. A record of 5-2 can be turned into a repeat playoff contention if the team does acquire Bell. The Steelers have until the November 13th deadline to agree to terms with him.
The Team With Surprises
The Kansas City Chiefs have been that team to sneak through this season with second-year quarterback Patrick Mahomes as a seeming shoo-in to take the Chiefs all the way to the AFC Championship game this year. He has thrown 29 passes into the end zone for touchdowns and only seven interceptions on the season. Last year, they were looking at a record 6-3 at the halfway point. This year, they are sitting atop the AFC with a record of 8-1. Their only loss was to the Patriots in week six with a 40-43 loss. If the Chiefs can keep their momentum, they may be looking to lock up home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.
What AFC Teams Will Round Out the Pack
The Defense That Needs a Spark
The Jacksonville Jaguars (or “Sacksonville” as they were affectionately called last year) were on a quest to showcase their amazing defensive unit all over the field. Halfway through last season, they were holding onto a record of 5-3. They had 55 sacks last year and 21 interceptions which carried them all the way to the AFC Championship game. This was the end of their playoff run when they were defeated by New England 20 – 24. This year, the script has seemed to flip with the Jaguars. A 3-5 record does not seem to highlight a team that was lights out on defense by creating turnovers and key matchups. To see the playoffs again this year, they will need to add some “W’s” to the win column.
The Team Waiting to Emerge
The Tennessee Titans are a team that tends to fall in the middle of the pack early in the season. Depending on the AFC South division records, the number one ranked defense across the league will need to rally their offense together. Led by quarterback Marcus Mariota, the Titans, who currently sit at 4-4, have opportunities to stay in the race. Last season, the Titans managed to emerge into the playoffs after defeating the Chiefs at the divisional round. This year, with first-year head coach Mike Vrabel, the team can solidify their position in the AFC South. If they can match their last year record of 9-7, we may see them in the playoffs.
The Team Living on a Prayer
The Buffalo Bills were the wildcard team last year to make it to the playoffs after last appearing in 1999. Holding onto a 9-7 record last season, the Bills were able to extend their season by one game. They have already matched their losses on the season with a record of 2-7 so far. In order to attempt a chance on this year’s playoffs, the Bills have to win every game from here on out.
Quarterback Josh Allen has not been a part of the offense after dealing with some key injuries. Their backup quarterback Nathan Peterman, with 7 interceptions in his 4 games so far, doesn’t seem to be the answer either. It may be best for the Bills to figure out what type of team they would like to be. At this point, they need to gather together and formulate a team that is willing to win on all sides of the ball.
The American Football Conference has a great set of playoff teams this year. With a few teams guaranteed to make a 2018 playoff appearance, pay close attention to the Chiefs, Patriots, and Steelers. The Chiefs can really overshadow the Patriots by staying hot through the next half of the season. Don’t count out the Steelers as they refine their skills throughout these next few months. The Jaguars started out the season strong, but are in need of a spark to bring their season to the playoffs. However, the Houston Texans or Indianapolis Colts may emerge from the AFC South as well to round out the playoff picture.
If the season were to end today, we would be looking to the Patriots, Chiefs, Steelers, and Texans as contenders. Our wildcard teams would most likely be the Chargers and Bengals based on records alone. Only time will tell if any of the AFC teams from last year end up repeating in the 2018 season. Stay tuned!
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