A Guide to the AFC Playoffs: Wild Card Edition

Mahomes leads Chiefs in Wild Card Game
Photo by David Eulitt/Getty Images

Wild card weekend is finally here. The playoffs kick off on Saturday, with two huge AFC matchups leading the way. While all three AFC wild card games feature rematches, the playoffs add a completely different element. Here is what each playoff team has ahead of them.

Tennessee Titans

What’s Next: BYE

The Titans survived a late-game scare against the Texans in week 18 to secure the top seed in the AFC. The bye week was essential for Tennessee, as star running back Derrick Henry needs all the time he can get to recover from his foot injury. While it is unlikely Henry will be 100% for the divisional round even with the extra week of rest, it certainly won’t hurt the workhorse to get some extra rest.

The Titans will take on the lowest remaining seed at home in the divisional round. Unless Pittsburgh can pull off a major upset against Kansas City, Tennessee will likely take on either Las Vegas or New England. Regardless of who they end up playing, it will be crucial for wide receivers Julio Jones and AJ Brown to also shake their nagging injuries and get as healthy as possible if the Titans want to make a deep playoff run.

Las Vegas Raiders VS Cincinnati Bengals

Saturday, 1/15, 4:30 PM EST

The Bengals will ride their high-flying offense into a rematch against the surging Las Vegas Raiders. Both teams have had a roller coaster of a season, featuring shocking losses to mediocre teams and huge wins over playoff teams, all in the same year. The Bengals won the first meeting 32-13, but the game was tight up until the 4th, with Cincinnati leading just 16-13 with only 5 minutes left in the game. While Burrow threw for season-low 148 yards, Joe Mixon turned 30 carries into 123 yards and 2 touchdowns. It will be up to the Raiders defense to contain the explosive Bengals offense and give Derek Carr a chance to win it again late.

The Bengals will take on the Chiefs should both teams emerge victorious. The Bengals picked up a last-second 34-31 win over Kansas City in week 17, making a rematch in the playoffs particularly intriguing. Meanwhile, the Raiders would face the Titans if no other wild card team manages to win, or the Chiefs should Kansas City and New England win. Vegas would host their first playoff game only if all wild card teams win, setting up a date with the Patriots at Allegiant stadium.

Buffalo Bills VS New England Patriots

Saturday, 1/15, 8:15 PM EST

Round 3 for these two division rivals will be the winner-take-all in Buffalo. The Patriots and Bills split their two regular-season matchups, with each team picking up a win on the road. Running Back Damien Harris rushed for over 100 yards in both games, and will likely see a lions share of the work on Saturday. Meanwhile, Josh Allen threw for over 300 yards and 3 touchdowns in the Bills victory. Both teams get the job done in completely different ways, so this game will be a battle of wills.

If Buffalo can get the job done at home, they could end up facing the Chiefs once again. Given that Buffalo already owns a 38-20 victory over Kansas City at Arrowhead, Buffalo has no real reason to fear the Chiefs. The Bills would find themselves with another home playoff game against the Raiders should both the Steelers and Raiders win. Meanwhile, the Patriots would travel to Tennessee with a win and a Steeler loss. If the Steelers win, New England would take on the winner of Cincinnati vs Vegas if they can beat the Bills.

Kansas City Chiefs VS Pittsburgh Steelers

Sunday, 1/16, 8:15 PM EST

The Chiefs struggled for the second week in a row before finally taking down the Broncos last week. While some red flags have crept into the picture, Kansas City has the perfect opportunity to fully right the ship and pick up a dominant win on Sunday. The Steelers are limping into the playoffs after quite a few unlikely scenarios came to fruition in the last few weeks of the season. While Big Ben is always a formidable threat in any situation. The Chiefs are heavily favored headed into Wild Card Weekend.

Should the Steelers pull off the upset, they are guaranteed to face the Titans in the Divisional round. Kansas City will have to wait and see how Saturday’s games turn out to see who they will host in the next round should they get there. Chiefs fans will most likely be rooting for the Raiders to win and the Bills to lose, setting up the third game against the Raiders. Given how the first two games between the two teams unfolded, Kansas City certainly wouldn’t mind seeing their division rivals again.

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