We are now passing the halfway mark of the NFL regular season, and the postseason picture is starting to come into focus.
In the AFC North, it looks like only one team from the division will make it to the playoffs at this rate. Every team in the division already has three losses, not to mention the second-place Bengals being 3-4-1.
The Steelers still hold a narrow lead as they got a bye week in Week 8. At 4-3, they’re the slight favorite to win the division crown, but not by much.
As for the Ravens, they’ve lost four straight and are currently sitting at 3-4 while also having just had their bye. They hardly look any better than last year’s 5-11 team. Their only wins thus far are over the 0-8 Browns, 2-5 Jaguars, and 4-4 Bills.
Speaking of, Cleveland is already out of the playoff mix and playing for the No. 1 pick in next year’s NFL Draft. They’re fighting hard enough and coming close in games to think they’ll avoid 0-16, but that’s no given.
Here’s a look at the AFC North standings following Week 8:
1. Pittsburgh Steelers 4-3 (1-0 in division play)
2. Cincinnati Bengals 3-4-1 (1-1 in division play)
3. Baltimore Ravens 3-4 (1-0 in division play)
4. Cleveland Browns 0-8 (0-2 in division play)
All said, it’s hard to see more than one AFC Team making the playoffs this year. A big reason why is the rise of the AFC West, which has three teams already sporting five wins.
With the Broncos and Raiders being effectively three games ahead of the Bengals, it’s hard to see Cincinnati beating either of them for a Wild Card spot. That means the Chiefs will need to start losing more if the Bengals are to earn a Wild Card spot, should they lose out in the AFC North race.
The 4-4 Titans and Bills are also ahead of the Bengals in the playoff standings, so don’t count them out either. Cincinnati hosts Buffalo later this season, so that could be a playoff elimination game of sorts.
And because the Bengals now have a tie, they lose any head-to-head relevance with teams like the 3-5 Jets or 3-4 Dolphins, unless those teams have a tie at some point. Cincinnati must now finish with a better record for better playoff positioning over those teams, which they currently have.
Here is how the AFC playoff standings would project if the season ended today, according to ESPN.
1. New England Patriots 7-1 - AFC East Champ
2. Denver Broncos 6-2 - AFC West Champ
3. Houston Texans 5-3 - AFC South Champ
4. Pittsburgh Steelers 4-3 - AFC North Champ
5. Oakland Raiders 6 2 - Wild Card
6. Kansas City Chiefs 5-2 - Wild Card
7 Tennessee Titans 4-4
8 Buffalo Bills 4-4
9 Cincinnati Bengals 3-4-1
10 Baltimore Ravens 3-4
11 Miami Dolphins 3-4
12 New York Jets 3-5
13 Indianapolis Colts 3-5
14 San Diego Chargers 3-5
15 Jacksonville Jaguars 2-5
16 Cleveland Browns 0-8