Like the NFC, the AFC conference has a couple of elite teams fans can count on to win their division. A couple of divisions project to be tough battles, and a few teams will probably not be too competitive. That leaves the rest to contend for one of three AFC Wildcard spots. But when it comes to forecasting which teams will be good but not great, well—that gets a little tougher.
You can look to last year’s playoff standings, where all three AFC Wildcard teams recorded 11 wins. But personnel changes and injuries will impact how this season plays out. Then there is the ever-present possibility the ten-win Dolphins improve enough to get another victory or two, or someone emerges. According to the odds posted at a couple of sports betting apps, the AFC Wildcard race could be a close one:
|AFC Wildcard Teams: 2021/22 Season||FanDuel||BetRivers|
|Los Angeles Chargers||+230||+200|
|New England Patriots||+320||+250|
|Kansas City Chiefs||+400||+300|
|Las Vegas Raiders||+450||+400|
|New York Jets||+650||+550|
Best Candidates To Earn An AFC Wildcard Berth
Of course, as the season gets underway, everyone has a legitimate shot at becoming a playoff-caliber team. We just cannot know for sure until games get played who is for real and who is not. But we can make some reasonable, educated guesses. For example, it would be shocking to see anyone other than the Kansas City Chiefs win the AFC West.
The Los Angeles Chargers are expected to be competitive, and there is a chance the Denver Broncos might be, too (which makes them great wildcard candidates). But it might be wishful thinking to believe the Las Vegas Raiders can make the leap this season.
The Tennessee Titans are favored in the AFC South, but they are not run-away favorites. The Indianapolis Colts have good odds within the division as well. Whoever does not win the division will be in an excellent position for one of the AFC Wildcard spots. As for the Houston Texans and Jacksonville Jaguars— bet on them if you must, but do not bank on them winning.
It is probably safe to rule out the New York Jets and the Buffalo Bills in the AFC East. The Miami Dolphins and New England Patriots have good division odds, but it is unlikely either will dethrone the Bills this season.
That leaves the AFC North, one of the most competitive divisions in football. That being said, it is probably safe to go ahead and rule out the Cincinnati Bengals. This season, they will be a much better team, especially if Joe Burrow can remain healthy, but not good enough to contend in the division.
Most sportsbooks are favoring the Baltimore Ravens to win the AFC North. But the Cleveland Browns have great odds as well, and it would be foolish to overlook the Pittsburgh Steelers. It is not hard to see at least one AFC Wildcard team coming from the North, possibly even two.
Sports Betting Recommendation
The Chiefs, Bills, Bengals, Jets, and Raiders are the only teams you can really eliminate from consideration. That leaves the Broncos, Chargers, Titans, Colts, Ravens, Browns, Steelers, Dolphins, and Patriots as candidates.
If Carson Wentz can return to his almost-MVP form of a couple of years ago, the Colts could win the division. But it is hard to trust that he will do so, leaving the Titans as the division winners and the Colts as a possible wildcard team. A lot of things will have to go right for the Broncos to slide into the playoffs; the same goes for the Steelers.
But it is not hard to see Justin Herbert get the Chargers into the playoffs this year. The Dolphins have an outside shot, but without the ultimate safety net (Ryan Fitz-magic(Patrick)), they could easily lose one or two games that they won last season.
That leaves the Patriots, Ravens, and Browns.
You could flip a coin between the Ravens and Browns for the division winner; the other will win one of the AFC Wildcard berths. With how Mac Jones has looked so far, it is not outside the realm of possibility for the Patriots to return to the playoffs this year. But that makes four potential AFC Wildcard teams—the Chargers, Colts, Patriots, and Ravens/Browns.
You could put a little on each but go with the Chargers, Patriots, and Ravens if you just want to bet on three. The Colts and Browns are not bad bets, but trusting Carson Wentz is hard. With the Ravens being so one-dimensional on offense, the Browns look better to win the division. That makes the Ravens the better AFC Wildcard bet.