As we turn the 2021 calendar to its final page, we look forward to snowflakes, hot cocoa, Mariah Carey’s amazing vocals and the NFL’s push to the playoffs. In the AFC there’s a cluster of three teams that sit one game above .500, fighting for the 7th and final Wild Card spot.

The Chargers, Broncos and Raiders all stand at 6-5 with six games remaining. Which club will take an exciting trip to Nickelodeon’s slime zone while the others take a deflating trip to Cancun? Let’s figure this out.

The Chargers’ outlook.

  • Two cupcakes remain on the schedule (vs. Giants, @ Texans)

  • Will play four games against teams with winning records (Home: Chiefs, Broncos. Away: Raiders, Bengals)

  • Will face three opponents with top-12 passing offenses (Chiefs, Bengals, Raiders) 

  • Rank 5th in the NFL in passing defense (204.9 ypg)

  • Rank 6th in the NFL in passing offense (280.8 ypg)

  • Allow the most rushing yards per game in the NFL (145.3) 

  • Toughest Game: Home vs. Broncos. Denver boasts a top-10 pass defense and a top-15 rush offense. LAC was recently humiliated in Denver, 28-13

Odds for Chargers to make the playoffs: Yes -120 ($120 → $100), No +100 ($100 → $100)

The Broncos’ outlook.

  • Only one cupcake game remaining (vs. Lions)

  • Have five games left vs. teams with winning records (Home: Chiefs, Bengals. Away: Chiefs, Raiders, Chargers)

  • They rank top-10 in pass defense (224.2 ypg) & top-12 in rush defense (106.6 ypg)

  • Five of their six opponents have an offense ranked in the top-13 in the league (you have one guess on which opponent doesn’t loloLions)

  • Rank bottom-12 in the NFL in points per game (20.7)

  • Their defense is tied for the 12th-most interceptions and will face four teams in the top-10 in interceptions thrown

  • Toughest Game: Kansas City (x2). Vic Fangio will hope his defense makes Pat Mahomes play like it’s September 

Odds for Broncos to make the playoffs: Yes +225 ($225 → $100), No -280 ($280 → $100)

The Raiders’ outlook.

  • Zero cupcakes remain as they host WFT this week and travel to Cleveland in Week 15

  • Play four games against teams with winning records (Home: Broncos, Chargers. Away: Chiefs, Colts)

  • Boast the 2nd-most passing yards per game (296.5), but the 6th-fewest rushing yards per game (89.1)

  • Face two bottom-tier passing defenses (Chiefs, WFT) but three top-tier passing defenses (Broncos, Chargers, Browns)

  • Let up the 3rd-most points per game (26.8)

  • Only earned one win in November and Darren Waller is week-to-week with a knee injury 

  • Toughest Game: Away vs. Colts. Sandwiched between two home divisional games, this is a long road trip against a hungry playoff contender with a scary defense

Odds for Raiders to make the playoffs: Yes +250 ($250 → $100), No -360 ($360 → $100)

The Takeaway

The odds favor the Chargers, but their inability to stop the run should give everyone pause. The most complete team resides in Colorado, but can the Broncos survive two games against the defending AFC Champs? Meanwhile, the Raiders finish the year facing six straight playoff contenders. All told, this screams stay-away. Wait a few weeks for this playoff picture to become clearer before hitching your horse to a potentially faulty wagon.

Term of the Day

NFL Week 13: Figuring Out the AFC Playoff Picture

Recommended for you