Kansas City’s Week 12 win helped keep them atop the conference playoff standings.
Although the Kansas City Chiefs’ Sunday victory over the Los Angeles Rams was of the out-of-conference variety, it still had an impact on the club’s standing compared to other AFC teams.
By getting their ninth win of the 2022 campaign, the Chiefs maintained their stronghold on the conference’s top playoff seed. No other club has a nine in the win column, allowing Andy Reid’s squad to control its own destiny for the rest of the season. The AFC playoff picture can be shaken up as soon as this coming week when Kansas City and the Cincinnati Bengals square off, though, so let’s take a look at where things stand with the top six teams as of Monday.
1. Kansas City Chiefs (9-2)
As mentioned, the Chiefs are the current top dogs in the AFC. A Week 6 loss to the Buffalo Bills could loom large should Josh Allen and company catch up in wins and losses, but they also have plenty to worry about within their own division at the moment. Kansas City’s margin for error isn’t incredibly wide and things could start to go south as early as next week, but having that No. 1 seed is never a bad thing. The goal for the Chiefs now — no longer just winning the AFC West — is to keep ahold of that spot heading into the postseason.
2. Miami Dolphins (8-3)
If there’s one team that deserves a bit more love in the contender conversation as far as the AFC is concerned, it’s the Miami Dolphins. Under first-year head coach Mike McDaniel, they boast one of the NFL’s most dangerous offensive attacks headlined by wide receivers Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle. Quarterback Tua Tagovailoa is performing at a high level as well, and Miami’s defense is slowly becoming less and less of a crippling eyesore. Big-time tests against teams like the San Francisco 49ers, Los Angeles Chargers and others remain, so the Dolphins will soon show their true colors for better or worse.
3. Tennessee Titans (7-4)
Mike Vrabel’s Tennessee Titans are tough to get a read on, as they’re certainly a formidable team with a stout defense and good running game. That formula can win in ugly postseason outings. On the other hand, quarterback Ryan Tannehill remains suspect and the Titans have question marks in the secondary and in their wide receiver room. This squad doesn’t appear to have enough to hang with the AFC’s premier teams, yet Tennessee is third in the AFC standings through 12 weeks. Can one of the NFL’s worst scoring offenses end the year on a high note? Time will tell, but the Chiefs have a tiebreaker over them already due to a head-to-head victory in Week 9.
4. Baltimore Ravens (7-4)
The Baltimore Ravens were a legit threat to the Chiefs in the race for the AFC’s top playoff seed as recently as Sunday morning but following an upset loss at the hands of the Jacksonville Jaguars, things aren’t looking as peachy for John Harbaugh’s team. Fourth-quarter collapses are becoming commonplace in Baltimore, as are injuries. Former MVP winner Lamar Jackson is always dangerous, and a favorable rest-of-season schedule makes winning out a real possibility, but the Ravens haven’t shown enough consistency to expect that. They remain in the middle for now.
5. Buffalo Bills (8-3)
Don’t let the Bills’ No. 5 spot in the standings fool you: Buffalo can be as good as any team in the conference. Sean McDermott’s bunch has been going through a rough patch over the past month after getting off to such a hot start to begin the year, but the ceiling with this team still exists and is very real. That, combined with recent success against the Chiefs and a quarterback who is the only player who can remotely make a case as Patrick Mahomes’s equal, makes Buffalo serious. They will likely be back in the thick of things before too long.
6. Cincinnati Bengals (7-4)
Another team that is overlooked by many but is showing some signs of potentially rounding into form, the Cincinnati Bengals have their biggest game of the season coming up when they host the Chiefs on Sunday. In a rematch of last season’s AFC Championship Game, a win would cement the Bengals as contenders once again in the conference and would put Kansas City on notice for the second year in a row. Joe Burrow has engineered a productive offensive attack and is getting Ja’Marr Chase back, and Lou Anarumo’s defense is tough. The football world will learn a lot about Cincy very soon.