Will sub-.500 teams make the AFC playoffs?


JOSHUA DAUSENER, Copy Editor | [email protected]

It is no secret in NFL circles that the American Football Conference (AFC) is rather weak this season. Outside of the 9-2 Steelers and Patriots and the significantly improved 7-4 Titans and Jaguars, no AFC team has impressed this season. With the conference in this state, could a team rocking a losing record squeak into the playoffs?

There are two scenarios in which this happens. Either a sub .500 team snags the sixth seed or a losing team wins the weak AFC West.

The no. 6 seed is currently held by the mediocre Baltimore Ravens. However, seven teams are right on their heels. Along with the 6-5 Bills, the 5-6 Bengals, Chargers and Raiders are breathing down Baltimore’s neck. Even the 4-7 Jets, Dolphins and Texans are just two games behind with five more to play -— far from dead. The declining 6-5 Kansas City Chiefs would also be vying for the sixth seed if they lose their lead in the AFC West.

The 3-8 Colts and Broncos haven’t been mathematically eliminated, but it is extremely unlikely they climb back into contention.

The Cleveland Browns remain in contention to win a game.

Could a 7-9 team snag the sixth seed? Possibly, but it’s unlikely. Between all of the teams in contention, it is likely that at least one of them finishes 9-7.

The more likely scenario is that a team with a losing record wins the AFC West. Winning a weak division is how previous teams made the playoffs with a losing record. The 2014 Panthers won the NFC South with a 7-8-1 record, and the 2010 Seahawks won the NFC West with a 7-9 record.

The AFC West has three teams in play to win the division. Currently leading are the fading 6-5 Chiefs, who have gone 1-5 since starting the year 5-0. Kansas City could finish the year with a losing record given the direction the team has been going in. Behind them are the 5-6 Los Angeles Chargers and the Oakland Raiders. The Chargers started the season 0-4 but have since gone 5-2. The disappointing Raiders were expected to compete for a Lombardi trophy this year but find themselves struggling to stay in the playoff race. Due to their weak division, however, the Raiders have a decent shot at winning the division.

The AFC is notably weak this year, with the AFC West being the weakest division in the conference. The division presents the best chance for a sub-.500 team to make the playoffs; there is a decent chance a team wins the division with a 7-9 record and becomes the third team with a losing record to make the playoffs since 2010.