There are just six weeks remaining in the 2023 NFL regular season, and everyone is paying close attention to the playoff picture -- especially in the intriguing AFC. While the top-four seeds did not change this past week, there is plenty happening below the division leaders. The Denver Broncos now own the longest active win streak in the NFL at five games and could make the postseason after starting the year 1-5, the Indianapolis Colts have climbed into the No. 7 seed and the Buffalo Bills' 2023 season is quickly slipping.
Let's discuss the 12 teams vying for wild-card spots as we enter Week 13. Which ones are legitimate contenders, and which don't have a realistic shot to even make the dance?
(To see our ranking of the NFC's 12 wild-card contenders,.)
Playoff simulation percentages via SportsLine
- Baltimore Ravens (AFC North, 9-3)
- Kansas City Chiefs (AFC West, 8-3)
- Jacksonville Jaguars (AFC South, 8-3)
- Miami Dolphins (AFC East, 8-3)
12. New England Patriots (2-9)
This past week against the New York Giants, the Patriots recorded their fourth game this season with seven points or fewer. They had five such games with Tom Brady as the starter. The Patriots also became the first team in 30 years to lose back-to-back games when allowing 10 or fewer points. We will see where Bill Belichick is traded this offseason.
Playoff chances: 0.0%
11. New York Jets (4-7)
The Tim Boyle QB switch did not help the Jets offense like Robert Saleh thought it would. Mike White was able to spark the offense a bit last year, but Boyle is not him. The Jets recorded just 159 yards of total offense against the Dolphins, and the defense's performance has started to slip over the past couple weeks. How could you blame them? They've had to spend the majority of every game this season on the field.
Playoff chances: 0.9%
10. Cincinnati Bengals (5-6)
Jake Browning completed 19 of 26 passes for 227 yards, one touchdown and one interception in his first career start, but the Bengals managed just 25 total rushing yards. What's more worrisome is that the Bengals defense allowed the first 400-yard game from the Pittsburgh Steelers since 2020. The Steelers hadn't recorded that many yards of total offense in 58 games!
The Bengals are in a tough spot without Joe Burrow. Especially when you consider they have one of the toughest remaining schedules in the NFL.
Playoff chances: 1.5%
9. Tennessee Titans (4-7)
Congratulations to the Titans for getting back into the win column against the Carolina Panthers, which led to the firing of head coach Frank Reich. The Titans are 4-0 at Nissan Stadium and 0-7 when playing football outside the state of Tennessee this season. The Titans appear to be the worst team in the AFC South, and the fan base has now shifted its focus to the future with the development of quarterback Will Levis, and which draft pick the Titans will have in 2024.
Playoff chances: 1.3%
8. Las Vegas Raiders (5-7)
The Raiders had a chance to record what would have been a statement victory over the Chiefs on Sunday, but they instead blew a 14-0 lead. The Raiders are now 2-2 under interim head coach Antonio Pierce, and allowed the Chiefs to score their first second-half points in over a month, as Patrick Mahomes and Co. went on a 17-3 run in the final two quarters to leave Vegas with a 31-17 victory. Rookie quarterback Aidan O'Connell actually looked very solid, completing 23 of 33 passes for 248 yards and one touchdown, while Josh Jacobs rushed for 110 yards and a touchdown on 20 carries.
Playoff chances: 2.1%
7. Los Angeles Chargers (4-7)
The Chargers just look flat right now, and we are likely living our last days in the Brandon Staley era. The offense scored just 10 points against the Ravens, lost the turnover battle 4-0 and the defense couldn't come up with a big stop in the fourth quarter to keep the game within reach.
Playoff chances: 6.4%
6. Indianapolis Colts (6-5)
The Colts are on a three-game win streak following a three-game losing streak, and they would be in the playoffs if the season ended today. Against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Jonathan Taylor rushed for 91 yards and two touchdowns, and Michael Pittman caught 10 passes for 107 yards. Gardner Minshew did throw an interception, but he's been better with turnovers as of late. In Weeks 6-8, he turned the ball over an NFL-high nine times. Over the last three games, he's turned the ball over just twice.
The Colts are still one of the most fascinating teams in the league, and they have an easy schedule to end the year. They have a shot.
Playoff chances: 39.3%
5. Cleveland Browns (7-4)
Even when Deshaun Watson was ruled out for the remainder of the season, it was thought the Browns' historically good defense could get them to the playoffs. Cleveland barely got by the hapless Steelers, and then were blown out by the Broncos this past week. That wasn't the only loss they suffered either, as quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson suffered a concussion, and then Amari Cooper and Myles Garrett were banged up as well. Next up for the Browns are the underrated Los Angeles Rams, and the Jaguars. I don't feel very optimistic about this team right now, but their chances to make the postseason remain high.
Playoff chances: 76.6%
4. Pittsburgh Steelers (7-4)
Unreal. After firing offensive coordinator Matt Canada, the Steelers recorded 421 yards of total offense against the Bengals. It snapped a streak of 58 straight games under 400 total yards, and was the first time this season they outgained an opponent! Kenny Pickett threw for a season-high 278 yards, Najee Harris rushed for a season-high 99 yards while averaging 6.6 yards per carry (second highest of his career) and Pat Freiermuth exploded with 120 receiving yards on nine catches. I'm not saying the Steelers are going to morph into the 1999 Rams to close out the year, but I am expecting more from this unit.
Despite the offensive struggles, the Steelers have remained competitive this season. At 7-4, SportsLine says they have a better chance to make the playoffs than any other team on this list.
Playoff chances: 79.6%
3. Denver Broncos (6-5)
How about these Broncos? From 1-5 to 6-5, Sean Payton's squad is the hottest team in the NFL. Since this win streak began in Week 7, the Broncos lead the league with 16 takeaways, and are first in turnover differential (+13). The defense is clearly the reason for this remarkable turnaround, as they are allowing just 16 points per game over the last five contests.
The Broncos are no pushover, and they have a pretty big opportunity to upset the Houston Texans this weekend. This is an important game when it comes to the AFC playoff picture. If Denver beats Houston, the Broncos' odds to make the playoffs will be 45%, per SportsLine. If the Broncos lose, their chances dip to 11%.
Playoff chances: 26.8%
2. Buffalo Bills (6-6)
Placing the Bills over the Broncos is a controversial decision. After all, Russell Wilson's boys beat the Bills in Buffalo just a few weeks ago, but Wil Lutz needed two chances at the game-winning field goal, and it's possible new offensive coordinator Joe Brady has breathed some life into this Bills offense. You think the Broncos could have gone into Philly and scored 34 points? Denver hasn't scored 34 points in a game in the Russell Wilson era.
The Bills are 6-6 on the season and the playoffs aren't looking good. However, they have the second-best point differential (+101) by a team .500 or worse through 12 games in NFL history. Buffalo hasn't lost by seven-plus points in 35 games! The Bills are still a solid team even though their defense allowed a monster second half from Jalen Hurts in rainy Philly. Just an unfortunate year for Bills fans.
Playoff chances: 18.7%
1. Houston Texans (6-5)
The Texans missed their opportunity to steal the lead in the AFC South Sunday against the Jaguars, in what was a very entertaining game. Matt Ammendola missed a 58-yard field goal at the end of the fourth quarter that hit the bottom crossbar and bounced out. It's especially painful considering that a C.J. Stroud sack took Houston from the Jaguars 37-yard line back to the 46-yard line on that final drive. Ammendola's kick came from the 39-yard line, so if he had the privilege of taking it from the 37-yard line, it probably would have been successful. The Texans secondary also committed multiple questionable penalties on third downs in the second half, which hurt.
The Texans offense had success against the Jaguars secondary for the majority of the afternoon. Stroud became the first rookie in NFL history to record four straight 300-yard passing games, Nico Collins caught seven passes for 104 yards and a touchdown and Tank Dell caught five passes for 50 yards and a touchdown. The Houston defense wasn't great, as Jacksonville racked up 445 total yards, went 7 of 13 on third downs and punted just twice. That will be something to watch moving forward.
Houston has a huge matchup vs. Denver this week, so we will see if I'm correct in giving the Texans the No. 1 spot on this list. If the Texans win, SportsLine would up their chances to make the playoffs to 68%. If Houston loses, those chances fall to 31%. As it stands now, the Texans have a 52.3% chance to make the postseason.
Playoff chances: 52.3%