A Patriots loss to the Dolphins on Sunday did more than simply create the latest in a line of NFL miracles. It added more intrigue to an increasingly complicated AFC playoff picture.
Because of the race to attain first-round playoff byes, even the best teams are still sprinting to the finish of the regular season. The Chiefs and Patriots currently occupy the two top spots, though the race remains tight.
Beyond that, a range of teams remain in the hunt, either for a bye or simply a wild-card berth. Even teams below .500 like the Browns and Bengals are still alive for postseason contention.
Here’s a look at the remaining schedules for each of the AFC playoff contenders:
Chiefs (11-2): After surviving overtime against the Ravens, the Chiefs remain in the driver’s seat to clinch the AFC’s top seed and home-field advantage. That said, the remaining schedule offers a test against the Chargers on a short week, as well as a trip to Seattle:
Week 15: Thursday vs. Chargers (8:20 p.m.)
Week 16: Sunday at Seahawks (8:20 p.m.)
Week 17: Sunday vs. Raiders (1 p.m.)
Patriots (9-4): Despite losing in Week 14, the Patriots are still in line for a first-round bye.
Patriots can clinch a playoff spot or the AFC East title this Sunday, but need some help pic.twitter.com/kTNGwuvsov
— Ben Volin (@BenVolin) December 12, 2018
A matchup against the Steelers Sunday will be followed by a pair of AFC East games:
Week 15: Sunday at Steelers (4:25 p.m.)
Week 16: Sunday vs. Bills (1 p.m.)
Week 17: Sunday vs. Jets (1 p.m.)
Texans (9-4): Losing to the Colts on Sunday ended Houston’s nine-game winning streak following an 0-3 start to the season. A win against the Jets in Week 15 would vault the Texans into position for a playoff bye should the Patriots lose to the Steelers. Houston is currently slated as a four-seed in the wild-card.
Week 15: Saturday at Jets (4:30 p.m.)
Week 16: Sunday at Eagles (1 p.m.)
Week 17: Sunday vs. Jaguars (1 p.m.)
Steelers (7-5-1): Following the 20-16 win over the Jaguars on Nov. 18, the Steelers have gone 0-3, including a 24-21 last-second loss to the struggling Raiders. It doesn’t get any easier for the Steelers, who could potentially fall out of the playoff position altogether given a difficult pair of remaining games.
Week 15: Sunday vs. Patriots (4:25 p.m.)
Week 16: Sunday at Saints (4:25 p.m.)
Week 17: Sunday vs. Bengals (1 p.m.)
Chargers (10-3): Though the Chargers have the second-best record in the AFC, the Chiefs’ presence in the AFC West means Los Angeles is still currently slotted for a wild-card. That could begin to change with a win in Kansas City on Thursday against the Chiefs, but the Chargers would need additional help in the final two weeks:
Week 15: Thursday at Chiefs (8:20 p.m.)
Week 16: Saturday vs. Ravens (8:20 p.m.)
Week 17: Sunday at Broncos (4:25 p.m.)
Ravens (7-6): Lamar Jackson’s time as an undefeated starter came to an end on Sunday against the Chiefs, though it required an overtime effort from the AFC’s best team. A win over the Buccaneers on Sunday, coupled with a Steelers loss to the Patriots, would see the Ravens leap into first place of the AFC North.
Week 15: Sunday vs. Buccaneers (1 p.m.)
Week 16: Saturday at Chargers (8:20 p.m.)
Week 17: Sunday vs. Browns (1 p.m.)
In the hunt
Colts (7-6): The Colts are in contention for a wild-card spot even after a 1-5 start. A critical win over the Texans on Sunday means that Indianapolis is currently the best of the teams just outside a wild-card spot. A pair of NFC East games will be followed by a divisional showdown against the Titans in the regular season finale.
Week 15: Sunday vs. Cowboys (1 p.m.)
Week 16: Sunday vs. Giants (1 p.m.)
Week 17: Sunday at Titans (1 p.m.)
Dolphins (7-6): The miracle against the Patriots means the Dolphins remain very much alive in the wild-card race, though plenty of work is still to be done. Miami is all but out of the division, as any remaining losses coupled with one more Patriots win hands the AFC East to New England. That said, wild-card scenarios remain viable if the Dolphins can take advantage of a relatively favorable schedule.
Week 15: Sunday at Vikings (1 p.m.)
Week 16: Sunday vs. Jaguars (1 p.m.)
Week 17: Sunday at Bill (1 p.m.)
Titans (7-6): Derrick Henry’s mammoth performance last Thursday (238 yards rushing and four touchdowns) helped the Titans past the Jaguars, 30-9. The Titans remaining path mirrors the Colts, with two NFC East games followed by the decisive Week 17 divisional clash.
Week 15: Sunday at Giants (1 p.m.)
Week 16: Saturday vs. Redskins (4:30 p.m.)
Week 17: Sunday vs. Colts (1 p.m.)
Broncos (6-7): Unable to catch the Chiefs or Chargers, the Broncos can only aim for the sixth seed wild-card spot. A listless loss to the 49ers on Sunday left Denver on the outside of the race. The Broncos have head-to-head losses against the Texans and Ravens, which could prove costly in the event of a tiebreaker, though Denver did beat the Steelers.
Week 15: Saturday vs. Browns (8:20 p.m.)
Week 16: Monday at Raiders (8:15 p.m.)
Week 17: Sunday vs. Chargers (4:25 p.m.)
Browns (5-7-1): Browns fans have been excited by the mere hint of a playoff race in December, and a win against the Panthers on Sunday allowed Cleveland to continue to dream of the postseason. Of course, five teams currently stand between the Browns and the sixth seed. A practical start to achieving such a feat would be getting a win in Denver on Saturday.
Week 15: Saturday at Broncos (8:20 p.m.)
Week 16: Sunday vs. Bengals (1 p.m.)
Week 17: Sunday at Ravens (1 p.m.)
Bengals (5-8): Amazingly, the Bengals – bereft of their starting quarterback and top receiver – are still mathematically alive in the race for the AFC North. Yet even gaining entry to a wild-card berth would be predicated backup quarterback Jeff Driskel guiding Cincinnati to multiple wins. Beyond that, the Bengals would need help in the form of losses from their rivals.
Week 15: Sunday vs. Raiders (1 p.m.)
Week 16: Sunday at Browns (1 p.m.)
Week 17: Sunday at Steelers (1 p.m.)