AFC Playoff picture: Dolphins stake claim on 1st place

The AFC postseason landscape continues to evolve, with the Miami Dolphins leading the pack following Sunday afternoon's blowout of the Washington Commanders.

Miami Dolphins, Tyreek Hill
Miami Dolphins, Tyreek Hill / Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

The 2023 NFL postseason picture is a mess right now. That's especially true in the AFC, where several teams are essentially tied for first place. The Wild Card picture is equally crowded, with multiple neck-and-neck AFC North teams and a few particularly spicy bubble teams, from Josh Allen and the Buffalo Bills to C.J. Stroud and the Houston Texans.

Sunday's afternoon slate provided very little certainty as to how the postseason picture will turn out. That said, a new first place team did emerge, if only for a short while, as the Miami Dolphins ran circles around the Washington Commanders in a 45-15 victory on the road.

Now 9-3, the Dolphins hold the ever-so-slim advantage for No. 1, with the Kansas City Chiefs hot on their heels ahead of Sunday Night Football and a showdown with the red-hot Green Bay Packers.

Here's a look at the full bracket.

AFC playoff picture after Week 13 NFL afternoon games

1. Miami Dolphins (9-3)
2. Baltimore Ravens (9-3)
3. Kansas City Chiefs (8-3)
4. Jacksonville Jaguars (8-3)
5. Pittsburgh Steelers (7-4)
6. Cleveland Browns (7-4)
7. Indianapolis Colts (7-5)

The top of the AFC is a total bloodbath. There is essentially nothing but head-to-head outcomes and point differentials separating the top four. That could change as the rest of the week plays out, but it's impossible to count out any of the division leaders for the No. 1 spot.

The wild card race is similarly brutal. The Steelers recently fired their offensive coordinator and may have just lost Kenny Pickett. The Browns have lost multiple QBs to injury and are about to deploy Joe Flacco.

For the Colts, Sunday's win over the Titans was essential. It's going to be difficult to keep pace with Gardner Minshew under center, but at the same time, his competition includes Kenny Pickett, Joe Flacco, and Jake Browning. So, the book is far from closed for Indy.

AFC Wild Card standings

1. Pittsburgh Steelers (7-4)*
2. Cleveland Browns (7-4)*
3. Indianapolis Colts (7-5)*
4. Houston Texans (7-5)
5. Denver Broncos (6-6)
6. Buffalo Bills (6-6)
7. Cincinnati Bengals (5-6)

Of note, the Steelers' Sunday matchup with the Arizona Cardinals was delayed. But, the Cards lead 17-3 as of this writing, which puts Pittsburgh in jeopardy of losing its stranglehold on that top wild card spot and No. 5 seed.

The Browns are also beat up, so the Texans — even with the heartbreaking loss of Tank Dell — have to feel good about their position following Sunday's win over the Broncos.

The Broncos and Bills are still very much in the race, too. Sean Payton's group has been playing quality football of late. Losing the head-to-head with Houston is a setback, but Russell Wilson has experience in must-win games and the defense has been a buzzsaw in recent weeks. As for Buffalo, it's simply difficult to imagine Josh Allen missing the postseason outright.