2013 NFL Playoff Picture: AFC Strength of Schedule

The AFC playoff picture after Week 7 - Jon Oliver

With the Broncos having slipped from their lofty perch, they are currently facing a wildcard slot come playoff time. But what is the likelihood that will actually happen, and how do things currently stand for the rest of the AFC?

For weeks, fans have been hearing about the unflappable Denver Broncos and Kansas City Chiefs. But just how dominant have these teams truly been? Based on 2012 standings, the Broncos had the easiest schedule coming into the 2013 season, with the Chiefs not far behind. But how difficult have their schedules actually been so far; and how do they compare to the road ahead? For a better understanding of how the strength of schedule is determined, and what it means, check out yesterday's article. Otherwise, keep reading as we analyze the current AFC playoff picture:

If the postseason began this week, the Kansas City Chiefs and the Cincinnati Bengals would get a first-round bye, with the Indianapolis Colts and New England Patriots hosting the wild car San Diego Chargers and Denver Broncos. Given the difficulty of San Diego's remaining schedule, and considering how they have performed with their easy schedule thus far, there is a good chance they won't even be in playoff consideration before long. For now, though, we look at each of the six teams who are currently in playoff contention.

Team

Current Record

Win %

SoS
Thus Far

Remaining
SoS

Projected Record

Kansas City
(AFCW)

7-0

1.000 (1)

0.313 (32)

0.574 (5)

13-3

Cincinnati
(AFCN)

5-2

0.714 (6)

0.532 (14)

0.467 (23)

12-4

Indianapolis
(AFCS)

5-2

0.714 (6)

0.553 (8)

0.444 (26)

13-3

New England
(AFCE)

5-2

0.714 (6)

0.500 (21)

0.475 (21)

12-3-1

Denver Broncos
(Wildcard)

6-1

0.857 (2)

0.375 (31)

0.590 (3)

11-5

San Diego
(Wildcard)

4-3

0.571 (10)

0.396 (30)

0.650 (1)

7-8

The numbers in parenthesis indicate the ranking among all teams in the NFL, with the lower number being stronger than higher numbers. For example: 1st place is stronger than 2nd place, and the 16th highest SoS (win percentage of a given team's opponents) indicates a more difficult Strength of Schedule than the 32nd highest SoS.

While the teams currently contending for the NFC playoffs have generally earned their records through more difficult schedules, and face easier schedules moving forward... San Diego, Denver, and Kansas City have had the three easiest schedules in the NFL thus far, and three of the more difficult schedules moving forward.

Kansas City Chiefs

(Current record: 7-0, Predicted record: 13-3)
It's not as difficult to believe that the Kansas City Chiefs have gone undefeated when you realize that they have had the easiest schedule in the NFL thus far. They started with the Jacksonville Jaguars, took on the Giants while the boys in blue were still in full meltdown mode, and caught the Texans while Houston was falling apart. Moving forward, there is a good chance they will lose to the Colts, and at least once to Denver. Barring a catastrophe, they should still make the playoffs; but there's no guarantee that they will be doing so as division leaders, instead of as a wildcard team.

Cincinnati Bengals

(Current record: 5-2, Predicted record: 12-4)
The Bengals are one of the only two AFC teams which are currently in contention for a playoff berth after facing a harder-than-average schedule. Even though their schedule has not been much more difficult than average thus far, their schedule moving forward is even less difficult. With the Ravens flailing only a season after having won the Super Bowl, and facing a more difficult schedule than Baltimore has faced thus far, the Bengals don't have any real challengers for the division title just yet.

Indianapolis Colts

(Current record: 5-2, Predicted record: 13-3)
Having faced the most difficult schedule of any team currently in playoff contention, in either conference, the Colts are practically a lock to win their division. And there is a good chance Peyton Manning will play in Indianapolis once again, if he has any chance of making the Super Bowl.


New England Patriots

(Current record: 5-2, Predicted record: 12-3-1)
New England is the one team in playoff contention which has the exact same strength of schedule -- the 13th easiest in the NFL -- as what they have faced thus far. So by the numbers, they should do as well moving forward as they have thus far. With Gronkowski back in the fold, it should be safe to move that tie into the win column, possibly giving New England a bye week in the post season.

Denver Broncos

(Current record: 6-1, Predicted record: 11-5)
How impressive is Peyton Manning? Still worthy of the MVP? What about once you take into consideration that the Broncos came into the season with the easiest projected schedule in the league? Even though the projected SoS is often upended... in the case of the Broncos, they have had one of the two easiest schedules in the league thus far. With the third-most difficult schedule ahead of them, Denver will have a chance to prove whether or not they are really worth all of the hype they've received thus far. They should still make the playoffs; but they will likely do so as a wild card, unless the Chiefs drop the proverbial ball in the second half of the season.

San Diego Chargers

(Current record: 4-3, Predicted record: 7-8)
San Diego has barely managed a wildcard spot thus far, despite having the third easiest schedule in the NFL through the first seven weeks. It will be a great surprise if they make it to the postseason, given that the road ahead of them holds the most difficult nine weeks in the league. The fight for the final AFC wildcard slot may be one of the most interesting things to track over the next ten weeks.

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