With just four weeks left in the regular season, we’re going to dive into the playoff picture in both conferences, while discussing each contender’s path to a Super Bowl.
Buffalo Bills (10-3)
Super Bowl Odds: +350
Remaining Schedule: vs. Miami, at Chicago, at Cincinnati (MNF), vs. New England.
Given the Chiefs remaining schedule, Buffalo might need to win out to stay on top of the AFC. Games against the Dolphins and Bengals are borderline coin flips, while the season finale against the Patriots is far from a sure thing. The Bills are capable of beating anyone, but a 2-2 finish is on the table. If the Bills lose to Miami this week, that will create a path where Buffalo could end up as the fifth seed. My primary concern with Buffalo as a title contender is outside of Stefon Diggs, Josh Allen has an average supporting cast. Ultimately, this team goes as far as Allen takes them.
Kansas City Chiefs (10-3)
Super Bowl Odds: +500
Remaining Schedule: at Houston, vs. Seattle, vs. Denver, at Las Vegas.
After enduring the league’s most difficult schedule, the Chiefs finish the season with four manageable games. It would be no real surprise if Kansas City won out. The oddsmakers are expecting that, as the Chiefs’ win total is currently set at 13.5 wins, which is +135 right now on DraftKings. The Chiefs have been the measuring stick in the AFC for years. Chances are you’re going to have to beat Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs if you’re going to get to the big dance. Keep in mind the Chiefs have lost to the Bills and Bengals this season.
Cincinnati Bengals (9-4)
Super Bowl Odds: +1100
Remaining Schedule: at Tampa Bay, at New England, vs. Buffalo (MNF), vs Baltimore.
Right now, the Ravens are actually the slight favorite to win the AFC North despite the Bengals’ Super Bowl odds being significantly less rewarding than Baltimore’s. None of the Bengals’ remaining four games are easy outs, but Cincinnati is on the short list of teams you’d rather not face with your season on the line. In fact, I could see Joe Burrow being the guy opponents don’t want to see in January for a long time. The Bengals could finish up anywhere between the AFC’s top seed and a Wild Card. In fact, the season finale against Baltimore could decide who wins the AFC North. As far as the playoffs go, the Bengals only had one home playoff game last year, and they went to the Super Bowl. Even if Cincinnati ends up as a Wild Card and has to win multiple games on the road, they are well-equipped to do so. The Chiefs, Bills and Bengals are a tier above the rest of the AFC’s best.
Baltimore Ravens (9-4)
Super Bowl Odds: +2200
Remaining Schedule: at Cleveland, vs. Atlanta, vs. Pittsburgh, at Cincinnati.
At first glance, the Ravens could easily run through this four-game stretch with a 3-1 record. That said, the Ravens have narrowly slipped by the Panthers, Broncos and Steelers during the past three weeks. If Anthony Brown ends up starting at quarterback for Baltimore in Cleveland this week, a 2-2 record through the final four games looks like the Ravens’ median outcome. The only reason I expect the Ravens to win a playoff game is that they’ll likely be the fifth seed and play the AFC South winner.
Miami Dolphins (8-5)
Super Bowl Odds: +2500
Remaining Schedule: at Buffalo, vs. Green Bay, at New England, vs. New York Jets.
The Dolphins do not finish with an easy schedule, as they could conceivably lose any of their final four games. If Miami gets into the playoffs, they have enough firepower to beat anyone. The question then becomes can the Dolphins win three games in a row against premium opponents that all play in cold weather climates? While that isn’t an absolute cross-off for me, I see Miami as the fifth most dangerous team in the AFC.
Los Angeles Chargers (7-6)
Super Bowl Odds: +3500
Remaining Schedule: vs. Tennessee, at Indianapolis (MNF), vs Los Angeles Rams, at Denver.
Now that the Chargers have taken down Miami, their most difficult remaining opponent by a considerable margin, Los Angeles is in a strong position to make the playoffs. As I discussed last week, if the Chargers get into the tournament, they are a dangerous team. The Chargers’ odds to win the AFC were longer last week than their odds to win the Super Bowl are now.
The Rest of the AFC
Tennessee Titans (7-6)
Super Bowl Odds: +6000
Remaining Schedule: at Los Angeles Chargers, vs. Houston, vs. Dallas, at Jacksonville.
New England Patriots (7-6)
Super Bowl Odds: +10000
Remaining Schedule: at Las Vegas, vs. Cincinnati, vs. Miami, at Buffalo.
New York Jets (7-6)
Super Bowl Odds: +10000
Remaining Schedule: vs. Detroit, vs. Jacksonville (TNF), at Seattle, at Miami.
Jacksonville Jaguars (5-8)
Super Bowl Odds: +15000
Remaining Schedule: vs. Dallas, at New York Jets, at Houston, vs. Tennessee.
The Titans still control their own destiny in the AFC South race. However, if they lose two of their next three games while the Jaguars win two of their next three, they will square off in the regular season finale with the division on the line. If the Titans get in, I expect them to lose in the first round. I’d expect the same from Jacksonville, but they are more dangerous than the Titans.
The Patriots are currently the seventh seed in the AFC, but they have a difficult final stretch of games. New England could realistically finish 1-3 through their final four games, especially if their offense continues to be inconsistent. If the Patriots get into the playoffs, they most likely fall to one of the AFC’s elite in the Wild Card round. The Jets might have the league’s best defense right now, but they have their own difficult stretch run, and they’ll need help to get in. If New York does get in, their defense makes them dangerous enough for at least one upset.
Philadelphia Eagles (12-1)
Super Bowl Odds: +450
Remaining Schedule: at Chicago, at Dallas, vs. New Orleans, vs. New York Giants.
The Eagles have the league’s best roster, and they’ve been acting accordingly. It would be a surprise if the Eagles finished worse than 15-2 at this point and didn’t at least get to the NFC Championship. That said, Dallas is currently slated to face the NFC South winner in the first round of the playoffs. The Eagles could end up facing the Cowboys, who are arguably the Eagles’ most dangerous NFC opponent, in the divisional round.
Dallas Cowboys (10-3)
Super Bowl Odds: +800
Remaining Schedule: at Jacksonville, vs. Philadelphia, at Tennessee (TNF), at Washington.
Dallas is at least the third most dangerous team in the NFC. They have a premium defense and an offense capable of being on the right side of a shootout. They’ve also been inconsistent for years, as they showed last Sunday by nearly dropping a home game to the Texans. Even if Dallas finishes 2-2 down the stretch, the Cowboys have the fifth seed all but locked up. Beating the Buccaneers, Eagles and then either the 49ers or Vikings all on the road is a big ask.
San Francisco 49ers (9-4)
Super Bowl Odds: +900
Remaining Schedule: at Seattle (TNF), vs. Washington, at Las Vegas, vs. Arizona.
The Eagles have the best non-quarterback roster, but the 49ers have the second. Brock Purdy has been good enough through his first two starts the 49ers still have a realistic path to at least playing in the conference championship. As things stand right now, it looks like the 49ers would most likely play the Vikings in the divisional round.
Minnesota Vikings (10-3)
Super Bowl Odds: +2500
Remaining Schedule: vs. Indianapolis, vs. New York Giants, at Green Bay, at Chicago.
Minnesota has a talented, but sometimes inconsistent offense capable of hanging with anyone. The Vikings have a good defensive front, but their secondary has been getting routinely torched. The Lions or the Seahawks passing attacks could give Minnesota some trouble in the Wild Card round. From there, Minnesota is likely to face San Francisco in the divisional round.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-7)
Super Bowl Odds: +3000
Remaining Schedule: vs. Cincinnati, at Arizona, vs. Carolina, at Atlanta.
The Buccaneers’ offense has been genuinely bad to this point in the season. They have the raw materials to improve, and they could realistically get through their final three games with a 3-1 record. But, ultimately, the NFC south winner will face Dallas or Philadelphia, which makes a first-round exit likely for Tampa.
The Rest of the NFC
Super Bowl Odds: +8000
Remaining Schedule: vs. New York Giants (SNF), at San Francisco, vs. Cleveland, vs. Dallas.
Super Bowl Odds: +20000
Remaining Schedule: at Washington (SNF), at Minnesota, vs. Indianapolis, at Philadephia.
Super Bowl Odds: +7000
Remaining Schedule: vs. San Francisco (TNF), at Kansas City, vs New York Jets, vs. Los Angeles Rams.
Super Bowl Odds: +10000
Remaining Schedule: at New York Jets, at Carolina, vs. Chicago, at Green Bay.
I could see the Giants losing out. Even if the Giants get into the playoffs, they will be close to double-digit underdogs and likely to be a first-round exit. The Commanders’ defensive front is dangerous enough to steal a game from San Francisco or Minnesota, but I have a hard time seeing them going on a three-game run to get to the Super Bowl.
Seattle could steal a game from the Vikings, as Seattle’s passing offense could torch the Vikings’ vulnerable secondary. But even if they beat Minnesota, I don’t see the Seahawks getting past the Cowboys or Eagles. If the Lions get into the playoffs, they strike me as the most dangerous sixth or seventh seed. Detroit will need some help to get in, but a 3-1 finish isn’t out of the question. That said, if the Lions got into the playoffs and knocked off the Vikings or 49ers, I have a hard time seeing Detroit getting past Philadelphia.
The NFC South Race
Every team in the NFC South is technically alive in the divisional race. Whoever wins this division is going to end up playing the Cowboys or Eagles in the Wild Card round. Tom Brady’s Buccaneers have a shot against those two teams. The Panthers, Falcons and Saints would all have massive uphill battles in those matchups.
WATCH: Who Will Win the NFC South?