NFL Playoff Picture: Updated AFC standings, Wild Card race after Bengals beat Chiefs

Let’s check the pulse on the NFL Playoff Picture and AFC standings after the Bengals dropped the Chiefs in Week 13. 

Now that the calendar has rolled over to December, the NFL Playoff Picture is starting to tighten up and games are becoming do-or-die affairs for teams trying to stay alive.

Even teams at the top of the playoff picture need to tread carefully, as the margin for error is slim and the cliff is steep for teams that make mistakes. Kansas City came into the day with the No. 1 seed in hand but ended it by dropping down the standings and giving control of the AFC back over to the Buffalo Bills.

Buffalo can thank the Cincinnati Bengals for regaining the top spot in the AFC. For the seventh consecutive time, the Chiefs lost on the road in Cincinnati, dropping Patrick Mahomes to 1-2 against the Bengals in his career.

For all the historical stats you can throw out about these two teams, the only number that matters in the aftermath of the game is two, because that’s the position the Chiefs fall to after the loss.

There’s another number worth mentioning: Five. That’s the seed the Bengals moved up to thanks to a victory over the Chiefs and a huge loss by the Dolphins in San Francisco. Cincinnati is also in a prime position to overtake the AFC North lead after the Baltimore Ravens were nearly upset again this week and lost Lamar Jackson to a knee injury in the process.

NFL Playoff Picture: Updated AFC bracket after Chiefs fall to Bengals in Week 13

A lot happened in the AFC beyond the Chiefs fumbling the bag and losing the No. 1 seed. Buffalo regained the No. 1 seed but also got some much-needed breathing room ahead of the Miami Dolphins.

Miami lost to San Francisco, which dropped them to the No. 5 seed and back into the Wild Card race. Keep in mind the Dolphins Week 2 win over the Bills, though, which acts as a crucial tiebreaker heading into the home stretch of the season. Buffalo and Miami meet again in Week 15, which means the Dolphins could enter Christmas with a complete tiebreaker and control of the AFC East. Buffalo needs to get a win over Miami to nullify the head-to-head tiebreaker and force other factors to come into play should the two teams find themselves tied at the end of the season.

Here’s what the AFC playoff bracket would look like if the playoffs started today:

  1. Buffalo Bills (9-3)
  2. Kansas City Chiefs (9-3)
  3. Baltimore Ravens (8-4)
  4. Tennessee Titans (7-5)
  5. Miami Dolphins (8-4)
  6. Cincinnati Bengals (8-4)
  7. New York Jets (7-5)

Based on those standings, here’s what the playoff matchups would look like for the first weekend of action:

  • (2) Buffalo Bills vs. (7) New York Jets
  • (3) Baltimore Ravens vs. (6) Miami Dolphins
  • (4) Tennessee Titans vs. (5) Cincinnati Bengals

AFC standings: Wild Card picture after Week 13

For now, here’s what the Wild Card standings look like after Week 9:

5th Seed: Cincinnati Bengals (8-4)
6th Seed: Miami Dolphins (8-4)
7th Seed: New York Jets (7-5)

On The Bubble
New England Patriots (6-6)
Los Angeles Chargers (6-6)

In The Hunt
Las Vegas Raiders (5-7)
Cleveland Browns (5-7)
Pittsburgh Steelers (5-7)
Indianapolis Colts (4-7-1)

On Life Support
Jacksonville Jaguars (3-8)
Denver Broncos (3-9)
Houston Texans (1-10-1)

AFC Playoff Picture Tiebreaker Scenarios

With so many teams tied in the standings, a handful of tiebreakers come into play based on various factors related to the schedule.

  • Ravens win the tiebreaker over Cincinnati based on head-to-head win percentage.
  • Bengals hold the tiebreaker Miami based on head-to-head win percentage.
  • Dolphins hold a tiebreaker over New England based on head-to-head win percentage.

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