In most cases, NFL Wild Card teams need at least 9 or 10 wins to secure a postseason berth. However, this year is shaping up to be quite special since eight teams have a legitimate shot at grabbing the last AFC Wild Card spot. And this has created quite a bit of excitment heading into the last few weeks of the season.
Looking at all of the teams that have records ranging between 6-6 and 4-7, an 8-8 record might even be good enough to grab the AFC’s sixth seed. So which of these mediocre teams could find themselves competing against the league’s elite in the postseason? Let’s take a look by ranking the eight teams that still have a realistic shot at the playoffs.
1. New York Jets (5-6) – Geno Smith may be playing terrible right now, but he hasn’t killed the Jets’ playoff chances yet. This is especially the case when you consider that they have the easiest remaining schedule out of any other team. They face Miami (home), Oakland (home), Cleveland (home), Carolina (away), Cleveland (home) and Miami again (away). The two games between New York and the Dolphins could potentially decide the Wild Card. Look for the Jets to go 3-2 or 4-1 the rest of the way, with road losses to Carolina and maybe Miami.
2. Baltimore Ravens (6-6) – The Ravens seemingly have the best chance on this list since they boast the top record and have head-to-head wins over the Jets and Dolphins. However, it’s hard to like their remaining schedule, which includes games against Detroit (road), New England (home) and Cincinnati (away) to close out the season. Their only cupcake is Minnesota at home, which could potentially be their lone win in these four contests.
3. Tennessee Titans (5-6) – Before Baltimore won, Tennessee was sitting in the Wild Card spot since they hold all of the tiebreakers. Their schedule ranks somewhere in the middle with two easy games in Jacksonville (away) and Houston (home) to end the year. But they must win at least one of their next three contests (@Indianapolis, @Denver, Arizona) for these final two to matter.
4. San Diego (5-6) – The one saving grace for San Diego is that a couple of their toughest games are at home, as they host Cincinnati and Kansas City. They also play the Giants and Oakland at home, but must travel to Denver in a couple of weeks. San Diego stole a win in Kansas City; can they do it again at Mile High?
5. Miami Dolphins (5-6) – Most people wrote the Dolphins off after the Richie Incognito bullying scandal. But they’ve since stayed in the hunt by going 2-2. Their remaining schedule isn’t impossible, but it does include three road games. Here’s a look at how they finish out the year: @NY Jets, @Pittsburgh, New England, @Buffalo, NY Jets.
6. Buffalo Bills (4-7) – Based on record alone, the Bills are going to have a tough time making the postseason. However, they come out of the bye week with a healthier CJ Spiller and a somewhat favorable schedule: Atlanta, @Tampa Bay, @Jacksonville, Miami, @New England.
7. Pittsburgh Steelers (5-7) – Pittsburgh lost the big matchup against Baltimore on Thanksgiving Day, and now find themselves needing to win at least 3 out of 4 to make the playoffs. The best thing that they have going in their favor is scheduling: Miami, Cincinnati, @Green Bay, Cleveland. However, Aaron Rodgers should be back for the Green Bay game.
8. Cleveland Browns (4-7) – The Browns caused some excitement earlier in the year after starting 3-3. But they’ve since cooled off, having lost 4 out of their last 5 games. They could jump back into the playoff picture with a home win over Jacksonville this weekend. But it’s entirely possible that they lose these four games to end the year: @New England, Chicago, @NY Jets, @Pittsburgh.
Whoever make the playoffs out of this list will be a big underdog in their first-round game. Of course, this could still make for some interesting spread betting and live wagering opportunities, depending upon what the playoff matchup ends up being.