Barnwell: Can three slumping AFC teams turn things around? What’s wrong with the Bills, Steelers and Ravens

    Bill Barnwell is a staff writer for

While the NFC playoff picture has pretty clearly separated into two tiers of teams, the AFC is much more of a muddled mess. No team has more than nine wins, but 10 have at least seven victories so far. As many as 13 teams in the AFC can still realistically look themselves in the mirror and think they can win their way into the playoffs with four games to go.

Three of those teams are in danger of falling off the postseason guest list. The Bills, Ravens and Steelers all came into the season with Super Bowl aspirations. Despite getting off to solid starts, things haven’t worked out in recent weeks.

The Bills have lost three of four, the Ravens three of five and the Steelers have won just once over the past month. These teams were 36-12 last season and a combined 17-8 before hitting their respective rough patches this season. They’re not supposed to collectively fall apart in November and December.

Let’s look into what has gone wrong for these three AFC contenders and figure out if they can turn things around. I’ll use ESPN’s Football Power Index (FPI) to note their current playoff chances, starting in Buffalo, where the hopes were the highest they’ve been in 25 years heading into 2021. The Bills seemed on the cusp of living up to those expectations, only for a slip to turn their season in a drastically different direction:

Buffalo Bills (7-6)

Chances to win the AFC East: 24.5%
Chances to make the playoffs: 76.7%

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