Just when New England fans were ready to move on from the Miami loss and look ahead to this weekend’s showdown at Pittsburgh, the Chargers reinforced the notion that the Patriots missed a golden opportunity last week.
Philip Rivers led Los Angeles to a thrilling comeback, as the Chargers rallied from a 28-14 deficit in the fourth quarter at Kansas City for a 29-28 win over the Chiefs. With the victory, Los Angeles clinched a playoff spot and pulled even with Kansas City atop the AFC West, as both teams are now 11-3.
Had the Patriots held on in Miami, they would also still be at three losses, with an excellent chance at securing the No. 1 seed in the AFC. As it is, they are 9-4 and will face a Steelers team Sunday that is trying to hold on to first place in the AFC North.
Here’s a look at the remaining schedules for each of the AFC playoff contenders:
Chiefs (11-3): Even with the loss to the Chargers, Kansas City is still projected as the No. 1 seed, with home-field advantage, due to having a better record in the division.
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, as they hold the tie-breaker over the Houston Texans by virtue of their win in Week 1.
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
Sunday’s matchup at the Steelers 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 last week ended Houston’s nine-game winning streak following an 0-3 start to the season. A win against the Jets Saturday would inch the Texans closer to the the AFC South title and vault them into position for a playoff bye should the Patriots lose to the Steelers. Houston is currently slated as the No. 3 seed.
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 are currently projected as the No. 4 seed with a slim lead for the first place in the AFC North.
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 (11-3): Though the Chargers are tied for the best record in the AFC, the second-place finisher in the AFC West will drop down to the No. 5 seed. The loss at home to the Denver Broncos in Week 11 has proven costly.
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 last week 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 Bills (1 p.m.)
Titans (7-6): Derrick Henry’s mammoth performance last week (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 final wild card spot (No. 6 seed). 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 last week allowed Cleveland to continue to dream of the postseason. Of course, five teams currently stand between the Browns and the sixth seed. They also have a slim chance at the AFC North title, but trail both the Steelers and the Ravens. 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 the wild card round would be predicated on 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.)