Which AFC Teams Survive Week 15?
The AFC playoff race was thrown into turmoil last week. Three of the four division leaders lost their games – and it was almost a clean sweep. The Wild Card standings, meanwhile, are now crammed with four teams tied at 7-6. Even the Cincinnati Bengals still have a tiny sliver of hope at 5-8. Week 15 is going to be pivotal in deciding who makes it into the postseason, and which seeds they’ll get.
It all begins on Thursday Night Football with the top two teams in the AFC locking horns at 8:20 p.m. Eastern on FOX. The Kansas City Chiefs (11-2 SU, 8-4-1 ATS) have already clinched a playoff spot, but they can put a stranglehold on the No. 1 seed in the conference with a win over the Los Angeles Chargers (10-3 SU, 7-6 ATS). The Chargers are second to Kansas City in the AFC West, so a win at Arrowhead Stadium is vital if they want to avoid settling for a Wild Card. L.A. opened as 3.5-point road dogs on the Week 15 on the boards and remain there at press time, if you are looking to place some action on a sportsbook, go to SBR for their reviews.
Big Ben Strikes
Unfortunately for the New England Patriots (9-4 SU, 8-5 ATS), their come-from-ahead loss to the Miami Dolphins in Week 14 will make it very difficult to grab the No. 1 seed in the AFC. But they do have the No. 2 seed heading into the new week. Will they still have it after visiting the Pittsburgh Steelers (7-5-1 SU, 6-6-1 ATS) Sunday at 4:25 p.m. Eastern on CBS?
That will depend in part on the health of Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger. He’s listed as questionable for Sunday after suffering a rib injury in last week’s stunning loss to the Oakland Raiders (+10.5 at home). Roethlisberger did return to the field in the fourth quarter after the Steelers coughed up the lead, but until more is known about his condition, the sportsbook lines for this matchup remain on hold.
The Houston Texans (9-4 SU, 6-7 ATS) will be rooting for Roethlisberger to get healthy. They’re the No. 3 seed in the AFC at the moment, losing the tiebreaker to New England, but they have a relatively easy game coming up Saturday against the New York Jets (4-9 SU, 5-8 ATS), kicking off from the Meadowlands at 4:30 p.m. Eastern on the NFL Network. The Texans are 6-point road faves at press time after opening at -6.5.
Not rooting for Big Ben: the Baltimore Ravens (7-6 SU and ATS). They would make the playoffs at No. 6 if the season ended today, but they’re also just a half-game back of the Steelers in the AFC North – which made last week’s fourth-quarter collapse against Kansas City that much more painful. The Ravens can make amends this Sunday with a win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5-8 SU, 5-7-1 ATS) as 8-point home faves. Game time is 1 p.m. Eastern on FOX.
The Indy Scene
If the Ravens slip up, the Indianapolis Colts (7-6 SU, 6-6-1 ATS) are next in the AFC pecking order. They’re two games behind Houston in the AFC South, so a division title is still a possibility, but they’ll need to put away the red-hot Dallas Cowboys (8-5 SU and ATS) on Sunday, beginning at 1:00 p.m. Eastern on FOX. The Cowboys have won five straight SU and ATS, although they’re 3-point road dogs for this matchup.
That leaves the remaining two 7-6 teams with maybe a 20 percent chance of making the playoffs. The Dolphins (7-6 SU, 8-5 ATS) have the tiebreaker over the Tennessee Titans (7-6 SU and ATS), but their positions could easily flip on Sunday; the Dolphins visit the Minnesota Vikings (6-5-1 SU and ATS) as 9.5-point puppies, while the Titans are 2.5-point road dogs versus the New York Giants (5-8 SU, 7-5-1 ATS). Both games kick off at 1 p.m. Eastern on CBS. How will the Top 6 in the AFC shake out once the dust has cleared? Stay tuned.