Updated AFC Playoff

Updated AFC Playoff Picture: Chiefs Remain Team To Beat

Written by on November 9, 2020

The Pittsburgh Steelers are the NFL’s lone unbeaten team and are 8-0 for the first time in franchise history – which is a surprise considering how successful that franchise has been over the year – but it’s the only-loss Kansas City Chiefs who remain the betting favorites on the Mybookie NFL odds to win the AFC title. No, the Chiefs and Steelers don’t play in the 2020 regular season.

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Kansas City (+175 to win the AFC) was nearly upset at home by the Carolina Panthers on Sunday in Week 9 but escaped with a 33-31 victory. Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes improved his chances to win a second NFL MVP Award by passing for 372 yards with four touchdowns and zero interceptions for a 121.7 rating.

Mahomes now has 101 touchdown passes in 40 career games and surpassed Pro Football Hall of Famer Dan Marino (44 games) as the fastest player to reach 100 career touchdown passes in NFL history. Mahomes has nine career games with at least 300 passing yards and four touchdown passes, tied with Marino (nine games) for the most such games by a player in his first four seasons in league annals. Finally, Mahomes has 19 career games with at least three touchdown passes, surpassing Marino (18 games) for the most such games by a player in his first 40 career games in NFL history.

The Super Bowl champions are right where everyone figured they would be to start the second half: challenging for the AFC’s top seed. The Chiefs lost only one game after Week 8 last season and, overall, have won 18 of their past 20 games, including the playoffs. But their schedule includes some tough games once they emerge from next week’s bye, including matchups with the Raiders, Buccaneers, Dolphins and Saints.

Pittsburgh, meanwhile, was nearly upset Sunday too as a big favorite at Dallas but won 24-19. A 14-point favorite, the Steelers trailed by as many as 13, their largest deficit of the season. Facing the league’s worst rushing defense, the Steelers had an opportunity to run all over the Cowboys. Instead, they put up just 46 rushing yards.

Mike Tomlin opted to go for it on 4th-and-1 on the Cowboys’ 15 instead of kicking a field goal. James Conner lost four yards, and the Steelers turned it over with 38 seconds left to give the Cowboys one last chance. Why not attempt the field goal? Tomlin didn’t trust his kicking group after a mixed extra point and blocked PAT.

The Steelers (+275) hold a two-plus-game lead over the Ravens in the AFC North, having already won the teams’ first of two regular-season matchups. Pittsburgh is another big favorite in Week 10 at home vs. division rival Cincinnati.

Baltimore (+500) was an impressive 24-10 winner at Indianapolis on Sunday. The Ravens have now at least 20 points in 31 consecutive regular-season games, surpassing the 2012-14 Denver Broncos (30 games) for the longest such streak in NFL history.

The Ravens’ two losses have come against the AFC’s top two teams, Pittsburgh and Kansas City, so it’s hardly concerning to see them currently in the wild-card race. They’ll have a chance to close the gap with the Steelers in Week 12, and thereafter will play only one more team — Cleveland — that currently has a winning record.

Buffalo (+1100) was an impressive 44-34 winner over Seattle on Sunday. Josh Allen passed for 415 yards and three touchdowns with zero interceptions for a 138.5 rating and added a rushing touchdown. Allen has four career games with at least three passing touchdowns and a rushing touchdown, tied with Jack Kemp (four games) for the most such games by a player in his first three seasons in league annals.

The win allowed the Bills to maintain a two-plus-game lead in the AFC East, having already won the first of their two regular-season matchups against the second-place Dolphins. The second will come in Week 17. Buffalo hasn’t won the division since 1995 — a year before Allen was born. The Bills have a tough one in Week 10 at Arizona.

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