The race for the AFC playoffs in the 2021 NFL season is gearing up for a photo finish.
Only three games separate the top 12 teams in the conference, and there are only seven postseason spots up for grabs.
Therefore, every game counts in the second half of the season, and there are still several division games on the horizon.
Those games might decide which teams will extend their campaign beyond 17 games.
This AFC playoff picture is wild. pic.twitter.com/ywgCJ9Cetd
— Dustin Baker (@DustBaker) November 8, 2021
But as early as Week 9, some AFC squads are already facing an uphill climb.
They’re not out of contention yet, but their losses made their situation precarious.
Suffering another loss in their next game might have significant implications when playoff spots depend on tiebreakers.
Here are the teams that must forget their failure this week and bounce back stronger.
3. Las Vegas Raiders
Their loss to the New York Giants showed how much they miss Henry Ruggs.
He was their leading receiver before those unfortunate turn of events, and Zay Jones did little to fill his shoes.
The Las Vegas Raiders had a hard time stretching the field without that “Z” receiver that can flat-out run and leave defenders behind.
Most likely going to take 11 wins to make AFC playoffs. Raiders going to have to go 6-3 rest of way to have a shot. Can they do that?
— Ryan Holmes (@Rholm22) November 8, 2021
Sure, they got their catches but did not have big-time runs that Ruggs can execute.
It’s not a good sight when a team that dominated in total yards went down to a team with a losing record.
But that’s the fate Las Vegas suffered in Rich Bisaccia’s first loss as interim head coach.
Gaining six yards per play meant nothing because they failed to score in the final quarter.
If there’s any consolation, the Raiders lost by only seven points, and they are still in the thick of the AFC West race.
2. Cincinnati Bengals
You’d think the Cincinnati Bengals would pull all the stops and play better after their surprising loss to the New York Jets.
Sadly, their Week 9 encounter against division rival Cleveland turned into a disaster.
The Browns executed to perfection in their first game sans Odell Beckham Jr.
Their ground game kicked into full gear, with Nick Chubb leading the way.
Little Bengals fan was celebrating his bday at the game. Started crying because of the score. So #browns fans around him started cheering him up and even gave him money for his birthday. He was laughing & smiling & enjoyed the rest of the game. It’s how you treat ppl that matters
— Joe Derkin (@jpderkin) November 7, 2021
In contrast, the Bengals played so poorly that the game was over by the third quarter.
The Bengals’ second consecutive defeat puts them in the cellar of the AFC North.
But unlike in years past, they are just one game away from the division-leading Baltimore Ravens.
1. Buffalo Bills
This result defies human logic.
The Buffalo Bills had the top-ranked offense while the Jacksonville Jaguars ranked 30th on defense.
However, Josh Allen happened.
No, not the Bills quarterback but the Jaguars’ defensive end.
No more SuperBowl or MVP talk.
This team just needs to get better #BillsMafia
— Primetime Adam (@AdamZientek3) November 7, 2021
He was all over the field in their victory over the AFC East leaders.
Allen had a sack, an interception, and a fumble recovery of his namesake.
The Jaguars also had four sacks which were enough to claim their second victory in eight games.
The worst part is that the Bills failed to score a touchdown despite their explosive offense.
Worst loss of McDermott Era. This team has real issues#BillsMafia
— Mike Catalana (@MikeCatalana) November 7, 2021
Their run game also regressed while their offensive line manifested troubling concerns all game long.
Buffalo cannot afford to take any opponent lightly, or this humiliating defeat may happen again.
Lucky for them, they still hold a half-game lead over the New England Patriots for the division title.