It’s difficult to believe, but the 2021 NFL season is past the halfway point to the season and playoff races are in full swing.
Some teams are flying high and are basically locks for the playoffs while others have their seasons hanging on by a thread.
Nine teams in the AFC have 5 wins. The playoff race is wide open pic.twitter.com/FlPCEPomMj
— Ben Volin (@BenVolin) November 9, 2021
Here are three AFC teams that came into the season with high hopes, but are seeing their chances dwindling by the week.
1. Cleveland Browns
Cleveland came into the season with as much playoff and Super Bowl hype as anyone in the league.
They started the season off hot by winning 3 out of their first four, with their only loss coming in a nailbiter to the defending AFC champion Kansas City Chiefs.
Since week 4, Cleveland is 2-4 with their last loss coming in a 45-7 blowout to the New England Patriots.
It was a game that was supposed to feature evenly matched teams who both had a 50/50 chance of winning.
Things certainly didn’t play out that way in Foxboro.
The loss was made worse with starting quarterback Baker Mayfield sustaining another injury, this one to his knee.
While he isn’t expected to miss time from the injury, it adds to the list of injuries that the banged up quarterback has sustained throughout the year.
Moving forward, Cleveland plays the winless Detroit Lions before finishing the season with 6 games against teams that all have a better record than Cleveland.
They play the Baltimore Ravens twice, Pittsburgh and Cincinnati one time apiece, the Las Vegas Raiders, and the Green Bay Packers.
Pound for pound, the Browns have one of the toughest schedules in the league for the remainder of the season.
If they can manage to turn things around and gain some momentum against the Lions this week, they might have a chance moving forward, but their margin for failure is getting smaller.
2. Denver Broncos
The Denver Broncos were a bit of an unknown coming into the season.
They started out hot at 3-0, all the while with people questioning how good they actually were.
Their wins came against bad teams that have continued to struggle throughout the season, and it seems that Denver has joined them.
Since their 3-0 start, Denver is 2-5 and now sits at a .500 record and have fallen into last place in a division with Kansas City, the Las Vegas Raiders, and the Los Angeles Chargers.
They, much like the Cleveland Browns, play one game against the Detroit Lions and then face teams the rest of the way with better records than the Broncos do.
To say that Denver’s playoff chances are slim would be gracious.
For the Broncos to have any hope moving forward, quarterback Teddy Bridgewater is going to have to be more consistent and better than he’s been all year.
3. Indianapolis Colts
After starting the season out at 0-3 and then 1-4, the Indianapolis Colts have been fighting tooth and nail to get back into the playoff picture.
Their record now stands at 5-5 and they have a tough but manageable schedule from here on out.
They have tough games coming up against the Buffalo Bills, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and Arizona Cardinals, but they also have games against New England, Las Vegas, Jacksonville, and Houston, all of whom are beatable.
Indianapolis is also the only team out of the three I’ve mentioned that are on an upswing instead of a downswing.
The Colts have won 4 out of their 5 with their only loss coming to the Tennessee Titans in overtime.
Between the Colts, the Broncos and the Browns, I’d put my money on Indianapolis sneaking into the playoffs.
The race to the No. 1 seed 👀
Here's a week by week look at the AFC Playoff standings from Week 3 to the midway point of the season! 📈 pic.twitter.com/CusfPQnpey
— FOX Sports: NFL (@NFLonFOX) November 11, 2021