NFL playoff picture: Could the Ravens overtake the Patriots for the top spot in the AFC?

The Patriots sit tied atop the NFL standings with a 9-1 record.

Lamar Jackson of the Baltimore Ravens rushes for a first down in the third quarter against the Houston Texans.

Here’s a snapshot of where things stand in the AFC postseason race as of Tuesday morning (records are unbalanced because some teams haven’t had their bye weeks yet):

1. Patriots (9-1)

Remaining schedule: vs. Cowboys (6-4), at Texans (6-4), vs. Chiefs (7-4), at Bengals (0-10), vs. Bills (7-3), vs. Dolphins (2-8)

Games left vs. teams .500 or better: 4

Opponents’ record: 28-33 (.459)

The skinny: If the Patriots get through the next three games with three wins — no easy task — that final stretch sets them up nicely to clinch home-field advantage some time in the last two weeks. Is there anything they can do to give their offense a bit of a jumpstart?

2. Ravens (8-2)

Remaining schedule: at Rams (6-4), vs. 49ers (9-1), at Bills (7-3), vs. Jets (3-7), at Browns (4-6), vs. Steelers (5-5)

Games left vs. teams .500 or better: 4

Opponents’ record: 34-26 (.567)

The skinny: Baltimore is doing everything it can to keep New England from running away with the conference. If they can stay healthy down the stretch, with that schedule over the final three weeks of the regular season, Lamar Jackson and the Ravens are looking at a 13-3 or 12-4 finish. Will that be enough to upend New England for the top spot?

Related: Is the Ravens’ offense with Lamar Jackson sustainable? The coach who brought the wildcat to the NFL thinks so

3. Chiefs (7-4)

Remaining schedule: vs. Raiders (6-4), at Patriots (9-1), vs. Broncos (3-7), at Bears (4-6), vs. Chargers (4-6)

Games left vs. teams .500 or better: 2


Opponents’ record: 26-24 (.520)

The skinny: The Chiefs got back on track Monday in Mexico, and they have a sneaky easy schedule after their next two dates. Could they be primed for a late-season run? The No. 1 seed might be out of reach (that December game in Foxborough looms large if they want a chance at a first-round bye), but that second seed could be a possibility if the Ravens stumble.

4. Colts (6-4)

Remaining schedule: at Texans (6-4), vs. Titans (5-5), at Buccaneers (3-7), at Saints (8-2), vs. Panthers (5-5), at Jaguars (4-6)

Games left vs. teams .500 or better: 4

Opponents’ record: 31-29 (.517)

The skinny: Colossal stretch looming for the Colts – a pair of divisional games (Houston and Tennessee), and another one against the mighty Saints.

5. Bills (7-3)

Remaining schedule: vs. Broncos (3-7), at Cowboys (6-4), vs. Ravens (8-2), at Steelers (5-5), at Patriots (9-1), vs. Jets (3-7)

Games left vs. teams .500 or better: 4

Opponents’ record: 34-26 (.567)

The skinny: Given the schedule and the rest of the race, the Bills are still the safest bet to finish with the No. 5 seed and 10 or so wins. Could that December game in Foxborough have some implications?

6. Houston (6-4)

Remaining schedule: vs. Colts (6-4), vs. Patriots (9-1), vs. Broncos (3-7), at Titans (5-5), at Buccaneers (3-7), vs. Titans (5-5)

Games left vs. teams .500 or better: 4

Opponents’ record: 31-29 (.517)

The skinny: How will the Texans respond to the absolute spanking they took this past weekend at the hands of the Ravens? That sort of loss – especially at this time of year – tends to send teams in one of two directions.



7. Oakland (6-4): The Raiders have just one game left against a team with a record better than .500. Could we actually see Oakland playing meaningful games in December?

8. Pittsburgh (5-5):How will the Steelers respond to last Thursday’s melee?

9. Tennessee (5-5): That last wild-card spot – the one that currently belongs to the Texans – is there for the Titans. Tennessee has two games left against Houston.

10. Cleveland (4-6): Like Pittsburgh, it’ll be interesting to see how the Browns play the rest of the way after last Thursday’s ugliness.

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