Locks to be in
- Kansas City Chiefs (9-2)
- New England Patriots (8-3)
- Houston Texans (8-3)
Much like the NFC playoff race, no team in the AFC has officially clinched a playoff spot. Even though the three teams on this list haven’t officially clinched, they’re all locks to make the playoffs.
With the Los Angeles Chargers at 8-3, the 9-2 Kansas City Chiefs are far from safe in the AFC West. However, they’re three games up on every other team who aren’t locks in the AFC Wild Card race. With five games left in the season, it’s unlikely the second ranked offense (points per game) will drop three of their last five. Even if they did, it would require the Ravens and Colts to win out, which likely won’t happen.
Do we even need to question whether or not the New England Patriots will be in the playoffs? When was the last time they weren’t? 2008 was the last time the Patriots missed the playoffs. It was also the last time they didn’t win their division.
With the 5-6 Miami Dolphins the toughest challengers for the AFC East crown, there’s no way the Patriots are losing their division lead. While they do still have to play the 6-4-1 Vikings and 7-3-1 Steelers, their other three games are against the 5-6 Dolphins, 4-7 Bills and 3-8 Jets. Those should be three for sure wins, giving them at worst a record of 11-5 and a division title.
Houston does have some solid competition within their division, but the winners of eight straight have made it clear they’re not to be messed with. Their remaining schedule plays right into their favor as well. Four of their remaining five games are against teams with a losing record.
The 6-5 Indianapolis Colts are the one opponent with a winning record. Even if the Texans lose that game, I don’t see them finishing worse than 12-4.