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NFL playoff picture: The hunt for the AFC West title

NFL: Kansas City Chiefs at Oakland Raiders Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

The AFC West is looking like it may be the best division in the NFL. Since the season is roughly halfway over and playoff races are beginning to form it may be a good idea to take a peek at the state of the AFC West playoff picture and what is yet to come.

If the playoffs were to happen today, the Chiefs would be the first Wild Card and would be playing a playoff game in Baltimore, the AFC North leader. The Broncos would be the second Wild Card and would be playing a playoff game in Houston, the AFC South leader.

If the playoffs started today the Raiders would have a first round bye. Obviously, the Chiefs want that first round bye for themselves. They’re in a good position of strength with a 2-0 divisional record.

Raiders Schedule Going Forward

Of the Raiders eight remaining games, three of them are against teams with winning records. However, looking at these games I would not call any of them a sure thing for the Raiders. The Raiders remaining opponents have a record of 32-27 which is a win percentage of 0.542.

My projection for the Raiders: They finish the season 4-3 with losses to Kansas City, Denver, and some other team on their schedule - let’s say the Colts.

Chiefs Schedule Going Forward

The Chiefs will be playing four teams with winning records that are likely to be playoff bound (Broncos x2, Falcons, Raiders.) In the past three seasons, Andy Reid has gone 6-13 in games against playoff opponents. So far this season, the Chiefs are 1-2 against potential playoff teams in the Steelers, Texans, and Raiders. The Chiefs will need to buck this trend down the stretch if they want to have a first round bye.

In that same span the Chiefs have gone 25-4 against non-playoff teams. The best case scenario for the Chiefs would be to finish the last eight games with a 6-2 record. A realistic worst case scenario would have the Chiefs finishing their last eight games 4-4.

If the Chiefs beat the Panthers they will be first place in the division and in the drivers seat. From there, to win the division the Chiefs just need to keep pace with the Raiders (unless the Broncos come from behind, but I’m not so sure that will happen.)

The Chiefs remaining opponents have a combined record of 39-31 for a win percentage of 0.557.

My projection for the Chiefs: They finish the season 6-2 with losses to the Panthers and Falcons. Let’s hear your homer calls. I could have gone vanilla with losses to the Falcons and Broncos. The Panthers are surging right now and they legitimately scare me.

Broncos Schedule Going Forward

Four of the Broncos final seven games played will be against winning teams, the most between all three of these teams. The Broncos have a very difficult schedule to finish the 2016 season. Their remaining opponents have a combined record of 36-22. It might not be a bad bet to take the Broncos as the final Wild Card spot when the playoffs begin.

My projection for the Broncos: They finish the season 4-3 with losses to the Chiefs twice and the Patriots.

It’s All Just Speculation

It’s fun to sit and speculate as to what may come in the future, but until the games are played none of us can really know what will happen.

What we do know is the Chiefs are in control of their own destiny and if they beat the 3-5 Panthers they will have sole possession of first place in the AFC West.

We also know the Chiefs schedule is about as difficult as the Raiders schedule going forward. The Broncos have a much more difficult schedule than the Chiefs and Raiders do.

The division race between the Chiefs and Raiders is closer than a shadow, and the Broncos are hanging around like the guy at the store who doesn’t understand personal space. It should make for an exciting end to the 2016 season.

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