On Monday, we evaluated the wild-card situation in the NFC, where seven teams are competing for three spots in the 2020 NFL playoffs. After Washington upset the Steelers on Monday, you can realistically add an eighth team to that mix; there’s a slim chance that the woebegone NFC East actually comes away with two playoff teams if the Giants and the Washington Football Team continue to stay hot.
In the AFC, things are a little clearer. Four teams have been eliminated from the playoff picture, and the 4-8 Texans and Broncos have chances below 0.1% in the ESPN Football Power Index‘s simulations. The Bills, Steelers, Titans and Chiefs are atop their respective decisions, leaving six candidates for three wild-card spots. Let’s run through their chances, what’s going on with them, and what each team will need to do to make it into January:
FPI chances to make the playoffs: 13.1%
Since I wrote that the 2-5 start to the season for the Patriots might be the end of their dynasty, they’ve clawed their way back into the playoff picture. Bill Belichick’s team has won four out of its past five games. While the 45-0 victory over the Chargers was a rout of monumental proportions, the three other victories came down to the final possession. The Pats were 0-3 in one-score games during the ugly start to the season; they’re 3-1 in those games since.
What has changed? There’s one extremely simple explanation: they’ve stopped turning the ball over on offense. During that 2-5 stretch, the Patriots had 15 turnovers in seven games, which was tied for the highest rate in football. Since then, Josh McDaniels’ group has two turnovers in five games, the league’s lowest rate over that time frame. They have gone from turning the ball over at least once in their first seven games to going turnover-free in four of their past five.