By Ray Hamill
When it comes to the AFC, mediocre might just be good enough to make the playoffs.
As it stands right now, there is a sizable gap between the top five seeds and the chasing pack, but that final wild card spot is wide open with nine teams still in the running and within one win of each other.
If this is what the NFL gods had in mind when they went in search of parity, then it’s working.
Well, either that or the AFC stinks. You can look at it whichever way you want.
In fact, with just six weeks remaining in the season, only two AFC teams – the Texans (2-8) and Jaguars (1-9) – are out of playoff contention, and even the Bills (4-7) remain in the hunt, with just one less win than the 5-5 Jets, who currently hold the No. 6 seed.
The Dolphins, also 5-5, are seventh, followed by the Raiders, Titans, Steelers, Ravens, Browns and Chargers, all at 4-6 and all still in the thick of the hunt.
Are you serious?
The Steelers, for crying out loud?
Didn’t we bury them a few weeks back?
As it looks right now, an 8-8 team could very well snag that final wild card spot, or 9-7 at worst, which means the Jets or Dolphins could sneak in by merely splitting their final six games, while the chasing pack would have to win at least four and probably five of their remaining games.
Of course, whichever team gets that final spot will likely have a short visit once they get to the playoffs, with the top five teams in the conference starting to separate themselves.
Of the four division leaders, two – the Colts (7-3) and Bengals (7-4) – have a three-win lead, while the Chiefs (9-1) and Broncos (9-1) are currently five games up in the West, all but guaranteeing at least a wild card for each.
In the East, the Patriots (7-2) hold a two-game advantage going into Monday’s game with the Panthers.