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Silver Minings: AFC playoff picture

Raiders are the 5-seed and head to Cincinnati for round one

NFL: Cincinnati Bengals at Las Vegas Raiders
Derek Carr vs Bengals
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Well, they did it! Against all odds, the Las Vegas Raiders managed to earn a postseason berth in what’s been one of the most chaotic seasons in NFL history and for just the second time in about the last 20 years.

Now that the Raiders have officially made the tournament, let’s take a look at what the playoff picture looks like in the AFC.

1. Tennessee Titans 12-5

Round 1 opponent: Bye

Stat leaders:

  • Ryan Tannehill: 67.2% completion, 3,734 yards, 21 TDs, 14 INTs
  • Derrick Henry: 219 carries, 937 rushing yards, 10 rushing TDs
  • AJ Brown: 63 catches, 869 receiving yards, 5 receiving TDs
  • Kevin Byard: 88 total tackles

The Titans are a very interesting team seeing as they’ve lost to the Jets and Texans but still managed to be the one seed while playing half the season without their best player, Derrick Henry. Also, they set a record for how many players they’ve had to use so it’s one, amazing that they're even in this spot, and two, they might need the bye week more than any other team in the league. Henry was designated to return this week so Tennessee could be very lethal in the postseason.

2. Kansas City Chiefs 12-5

Round 1 opponent: Pittsburgh Steelers

Stat Leaders:

  • Patrick Mahomes: 66.3% completion, 4,839 passing yards, 37 TDs, 13 INTs
  • Darrel Williams: 144 carries, 558 rushing yards, 6 rushing TDs
  • Tyreek Hill: 111 catches, 1,239 receiving yards, 9 receiving TDs
  • Nick Bolton: 112 total tackles

The Raiders certainly know the Chiefs well, and the two teams could easily meet again in the second round of the postseason. As the defending two-time AFC Champions, Kansas City will likely be the betting favorite to go back to the Super Bowl, but they’ll have to figure out how to get their offense and defense in sync with each other. For the majority of the year, the Chiefs have struggled to put together a complete game and quarterback Patrick Mahomes has come back down to earth. We’ll see if that changes over the next several weeks.

3. Buffalo Bills 11-6

Round 1 opponent: New England Patriots

Stat Leaders:

  • Josh Allen: 63.3% completion, 4,407 yards, 36 TDs, 15 INTs
  • Devin Singletary: 188 carries, 870 rushing yards, 7 rushing TDs
  • Stefon Diggs: 103 catches, 1,225 receiving yards, 10 receiving TDs
  • Tremaine Edmunds: 108 total tackles

Buffalo is another team that is a bit of a mystery. They started with a loss to the Steelers, then won four in a row, went on a 3-5 stretch during the middle of the season, and finished by winning four in a row. The Bills are one of the most dangerous teams in the conference heading into the playoffs, it’s just a matter of how consistent quarterback Josh Allen can be.

4. Cincinnati Bengals 10-7

Round 1 opponent: Las Vegas Raiders

Stat leaders:

  • Joe Burrow: 70.4% completion, 4,611 yards, 34 TDs, 14 INTs
  • Joe Mixon: 292 rushes, 1,205 rushing yards, 13 rushing TDs
  • Ja’Marr Chase: 81 catches, 1,455 receiving yards, 13 receiving TDs
  • Logan Wilson: 100 total tackles

Lead by a high-flying offense and a defense that has no shortage of playmakers, don’t sleep on the Bengals heading into the tournament. Joe Burrow and Ja’Marr Chase have picked up right where their college days left off, Tee Higgins gives them a second 1,000-yard wideout and Joe Mixon cracked the four-digit mark on the ground. Cincy is 5-3 since their bye week and that includes yesterday’s loss while playing the backups, so they’re one of the hottest teams in the conference right now.

5. Las Vegas Raiders 10-7

Round 1 opponent: Cincinnati Bengals

Stat leaders:

  • Derek Carr: 68.4% completion, 4,804 yards, 23 TDs, 14 INTs
  • Josh Jacobs: 217 carries, 872 rushing yards, 9 rushing TDs
  • Hunter Renfrow: 103 catches, 1,038 receiving yards, 9 receiving TDs
  • Denzel Perryman: 154 total tackles

Speaking of hot teams in the AFC, the Raiders head into the playoffs riding a four-game win streak. While they may be young and lack actual postseason experience, you could argue that they’ve been playing playoff games during said run. Las Vegas has played a significant hand in eliminating their last four opponents from the tournament and looks to continue that momentum into Southern Ohio next week.

6. New England Patriots 10-7

Round 1 opponent: Buffalo Bills

Stat leaders:

  • Mac Jones: 67.6% completion, 3,801 yards, 22 TDs, 13 INTs
  • Damien Harris: 202 carries, 929 rushing yards, 15 rushing TDs
  • Jakobi Meyers: 83 catches, 866 receiving yards, 2 receiving TDs
  • Ja’Whaun Bentley: 109 total tackles

It’s weird to say this about a Bill Belichick-led Patriots team that has only made the playoffs to this point, but the Pats have managed to exceed expectations this season. Not a lot of people expected much out of quarterback Mac Jones, but he’s managed to play his way into the offensive rookie-of-the-year conversation. Also, their defense has been one of the best in the league this season so New England is going to be a tough out.

7. Pittsburgh Steelers 9-7-1

Round 1 opponent: Kansas City Chiefs

Stat leaders:

  • Ben Roethlisberger: 64.5% completion, 3,740 yards, 22 TDs, 10 INTs
  • Najee Harris: 307 carries, 1,200 rushing yards, 7 rushing TDs
  • Dionte Johnson: 107 catches, 1,161 receiving yards, 8 receiving TDs
  • Minkah Fitzpatrick: 124 total tackles

For the second year in a row, the Steelers are a playoff team but don’t really feel like one. Their defense is legitimate and led by defensive player of the year candidate T.J. Watt, but their offense continues to be held back by Ben Roethlisberger. Mike Tomlin and company deserve a ton of credit for making it this far, but it’s hard to see them making much of a run with how much they’ve struggled to score points over the last two years.

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