Saturday 19 August 2017 / 04:14 AM

THE PLAYOFFS RACE: AFC

After a weekend of great football, the NFL season heads into its home stretch before the playoffs. Some NFL fans are watching their favorite team turn on cruise control and play safely to reduce the risk of injury. Others are watching their team fight with their back against the wall to make the playoffs. And then there are some fans looking at the NFL draft and the 2017-18 season in patient anticipation.

AFC EAST

The AFC East has been Patriots territory as long as I can remember, but the Dolphins are slowly creeping in. Granted, the Patriots are a shoe-in for the playoffs and the Dolphins are scrambling for a wildcard, but that’s a lot for a team that has consistently missed the playoffs for almost a decade.

This is going to be one of the most exciting divisions to watch in the following weeks, especially for Dolphins fans. The Fins will face all three of their division rivals back-to-back-to-back, and this could make or break their playoff chances. The Patriots could only lose their number one spot by an unprecedented series of losses to lower-caliber teams like the Broncos, Jets and Dolphins.

The Bills and Jets will certainly try their hardest to knock their division rival out of the playoff race. Objectively, the Dolphins, Jets and Bills are like three toddlers bickering in the backseat of a car when compared to the Patriots.

I believe the Dolphins have a fair shot at the wildcard this year, and that’s a step in the direction that Miami needs. Tom Brady is likely going to retire in the next few years, and the Dolphins will be there waiting if the Patriots slump in the slightest. The AFC East could have an entirely different power dynamic by 2019.

The Dolphins just need to keep winning – and the Broncos need to start losing.

AFC WEST

The Raiders’ loss to the Chiefs on Thursday knocked them down from AFC West dominance into a very close tie. The Chiefs and Raiders both have a .769 percentage, and are going to have to spend the rest of the season playing their best. Either way, one will end up in the playoffs and the other has a strong shot at the wildcard. The Chiefs have back to back to back games against AFC West after their game with the Titans.

This will be a pretty exciting division to watch. The Super Bowl champ Denver Broncos fell from glory and only have more room to fall. I predict they will lose their next three games against the Patriots, Raiders and Chiefs. I want the Raiders to claim that #1 spot, but it’s going to be a photo finish between them and the Raiders.

AFC NORTH

The Steelers seem to have taken the lead to the playoffs, but I feel like their post-season is going to be a short one. I very well could be wrong, but I think that their mid-season slump was more than just a slump – it was setting a new equilibrium for what the Steelers are capable of.

The Steelers have the potential to to go three-from-three in their following games, but will face off in an intense game against the Ravens on December 25th. The winner of this game will likely decide who is going to the playoffs. The other two games are against the Bengals and Browns, and essentially free Ws for Pittsburgh.

The Browns are also officially eliminated from playoff contention, just in case you don’t feel like doing the mental math with their 0-12 record.

AFC SOUTH

The most boring division in the AFC is starting to heat up between the Texans and Titans. Either team could make the playoffs, but either team will probably be blown out in the first round.

I would like to see the Texans break through after losing JJ Watt at the beginning of the season, but I also want to see Marcus Mariota in playoff action.

The Jacksonville Jags are also officially eliminated from playoff contention.

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About the author

Alex Moskov

Alex has come on board with CBS as our basketball and gridiron expert, providing opinions and analysis from the bright lights of the NBA and NFL.

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