Whence the NFL hits midseason, the playoff picture begins to take form. Entering Week 10, there are still a lot of teams in the mix. For example, all four AFC South teams are still in contention. In the NFC, there are four teams sitting at 5-4 jockeying for the sixth wild card. It is worth noting that because it is only Week 10, no divisions have been clinched yet.
For this piece, we will take a look specifically at the AFC playoffs. We will predict who will make the 2019 AFC playoffs courtesy of the division winners and wild card winners.
Who Will Make The 2019 AFC Playoffs?
The New England Patriots are in a great position for a first-round bye. Sitting at 8-1 with a tiebreaker win over the Buffalo Bills (6-3), the Pats face five teams with winning records in their final seven games. After a humiliating loss in primetime against the Baltimore Ravens, any concern is understandable. That said, the Patriots still have a potentially historic defense with defensive player of the year candidates Jamie Collins and Kyle Van Noy. Also, we have entered the time of year where they begin hitting their stride. It would be foolish not to trust Bill Belichick after all these years.
As for a wild card birth out of the Bills we’re going to predict yes. The past three weeks their run defense has been poor which is cause for concern. Buffalo should consider relying on the ground game and impressive rookie Devin Singletary more, as the passing game has yet to truly take the next step. However, they are well-coached and still possess the talent to turn it around.
Division Winner: New England Patriots
Wild-Card #1: Buffalo Bills
Speaking of the Ravens, we’ll project them to win the AFC North. Although their biggest challenger, the Pittsburgh Steelers have won five of their last six, the Ravens have an MVP candidate at QB, while Pittsburgh’s offense ranks 28th in total yards. It helps that the secondary led by Marlon Humphrey and Earl Thomas is playing lights out recently. So far the Ravens have looked like a juggernaut leading the NFL in points and rushing yards per game. If the mighty Patriots couldn’t stop their dynamic running game, it is fair to wonder if anybody can or will.
The Steelers will make the playoffs, but barely. This was the toughest team to predict. For as great as their defense is (second in the league in takeaways), winning with defense is much harder than winning with the offense in 2019. But when Minkah Fitzpatrick is playing like a DPOY candidate, and T.J. Watt as one of the best pass rushers in the league it’s hard to ignore. The glaring issue is how conservative their offense continues to be. For them to be in the hunt, James Conner needs to be back and healthy, which it sounds like he could be for Thursday Night Football against the Cleveland Browns. Head Coach Mike Tomlin could be in the coach of the year race depending on the success Pittsburgh has.
Division Winner: Baltimore Ravens
Wild-Card #2: Pittsburgh Steelers
We have now entered murky waters. The battle for the AFC South is going to be grueling. Currently, the Houston Texans (6-3) are in the lead by a small margin. Behind them sit the Indianapolis Colts (5-4), Tennessee Titans (5-5), and Jacksonville Jaguars (4-5). It is hard to predict a winner due to the inconsistent nature of all the teams. The Texans have the best player in the division in Deshaun Watson which is why they will get the edge and win the division. Despite losing their best defensive player J.J. Watt for the year, the Texans defense looked remarkable against Jacksonville in Week 9. They forced three fumbles, four sacks, and two interceptions. If they can play to even half of that success, they will separate from the pack. Due to inconsistent play out of the other three teams, no wild card births will come from this division.
Division Winner: Houston Texans
The MVP Patrick Mahomes is back, meaning the Kansas City Chiefs should be pushing for a bye right? That’s not the case. With a 6-4 record, they are only one game ahead of the Oakland Raiders (5-4). Mahomes lit it up in his return on Sunday, throwing for 446 yards, three scores, and showing off his insane chemistry with Tyreek Hill. The Chiefs do not have an easy schedule left, but with a healthy Mahomes, they should win the division.
As for the previously mentioned Raiders, they just barely miss out on these predictions. With their next two games being against the Cincinnati Bengals and New York Jets, the Raiders have the chance to be 7-4. Jon Gruden has done a masterful coaching job in his second season. First-round running back Josh Jacobs has looked like the offensive rookie of the year through the first half of the season. Jacobs has shown everything you want in a running back, averaging 4.8 YPA, breaking tackles, and leading the league in forced missed tackles per attempt.
Unfortunately, there is only one spot open due to the Bills clinching the first wild-card. Choosing who will make the playoffs between the Raiders and Steelers was an incredibly tough choice. In the end, the Steelers won out because of their star players being better than the Raiders’ star players. However, it could go either way.
Division Winner: Kansas City Chiefs
Predicting Who Will Make The Playoffs Is Tough
It is never easy trying to predict who will make the playoffs. There are only two wild card spots open, and there are so many teams trying to grab them. The Bills, Steelers, and Raiders are the three likeliest teams to be battling it out for those spots. Any combination of the three is the likeliest to clinch a playoff birth. With that said, anything is possible in the NFL and we are gearing up for a competitive final seven weeks.
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