Which AFC teams will make the postseason? Breaking down the crowded playoff picture

Miami Dolphins quarter back Tua Tagovailoa runs onto field for game against the Chargers
Photo of Andrew Ortenberg

Andrew Ortenberg


Show Bio

I'm an NFL handicapper here at Pickswise who was raised in a household full of sports fanatics. Since I unfortunately never had LeBron James' jumping ability I wasn't able to make it to the NBA, and chose writing about sports as the next best thing. An avid sports bettor myself, I'm excited to get to write about the industry as it gets set to take off across the country. Buckle up. For Andrew Ortenberg media enquiries, please email contact@pickswise.com.
Read more about Andrew Ortenberg

We’re now ten weeks through the 2020 NFL season, and we’ve got a much clearer picture of where things stand. But there’s still a lot to be determined, and the playoff races are now only just starting to heat up in both conferences. Things are a lot more interesting in the AFC, where there’s a pile-up of above .500 teams, and that’s where we’ll be looking today.

For the first time ever seven teams from each conference will make the playoffs, with an extra wild card team getting added. There are currently a whopping nine teams with records of 6-3 or better, and at least two of them will be on the outside looking in when the dust settles. Here’s where I see the chips falling:


  • Kansas City Chiefs
  • Pittsburgh Steelers

These are the only two I feel comfortable saying will make the playoffs with near 100 percent certainty. The Bills were looking pretty good, but with their recent losses and the Dolphins’ five-game winning streak, the AFC East is no longer guaranteed to be theirs. The Chiefs are the most talented team in the league and I don’t think there’s any doubt they’re winning the AFC West, while the Steelers can coast to an AFC North title with a current three-game lead over second place.

The final five

  • Buffalo Bills
  • Indianapolis Colts
  • Baltimore Ravens
  • Cleveland Browns
  • Miami Dolphins

Ultimately I think Buffalo will win the division. Miami is still a good bet to win the division though, and they’ve got a very soft schedule for the next month. They’ll be solid favorites in each of their next three games against the Broncos, Jets, and Bengals, so it’s very plausible they’ll be 9-3 in a few weeks. If that happens, it’ll be pretty hard for them to miss the playoffs.

The Colts showed on Thursday Night Football last week they’re the best team in the AFC South, and their defense is legitimately great. The Ravens have caught a lot of flak but there’s no real reason to panic, as their only three losses this season have come to the Chiefs, Steelers, and on the road against the Patriots in torrential rain. They’ll be just fine.

The Browns’ defense is really starting to come along, and I think Myles Garrett is the Defensive Player of the Year. This looks like the Cleveland team that is going to finally snap their playoff drought, and having Nick Chubb back takes their offense to a new level.

Outside looking in

  • Tennessee Titans
  • Las Vegas Raiders

Of all the 6-3 teams, I think these two are the most likely to get left out. Each team is an underdog of nearly a touchdown this weekend against the Ravens and Chiefs. Tennessee’s schedule is brutal, with games against Baltimore, Indianapolis, Cleveland, and Green Bay coming up. Opposing defenses seem to have figured out the key to stopping their ground game, as Derrick Henry hasn’t had all that much running room this season. Ryan Tannehill has also regressed, and he’s failed to top 18 completions in four straight games as the Titans have gone 1-3 in that stretch.

The Raiders have been a nice story, but outside of their win against the Chiefs I don’t think they’ve looked too impressive in any of their recent victories. They aren’t particularly strong on either side of the ball and don’t have much true top-flight talent. That’s not a formula for winning games in November and December, and I expect them to regress pretty soon.

The bottom line

We’ll know a lot more soon, but I think the two teams I mentioned above are at a clear disadvantage relative to the rest of the contenders. Either way, it’s going to be a close and exciting finish, and I can’t wait to see how it all plays out.

Pickswise is the home of free NFL predictions. Check out the latest NFL props and NFL parlays as well as expert underdog predictions and computer picks.

By signing up you agree to our terms and privacy policy