The AFC Playoff field is set as we know the six teams that will be competing with the exception of the seeding. We’re going to look at the worst possible matchups for each of the teams without naming the Patriots, who are the worst matchup for each of their opponents.
New England Patriots
The Patriots are the overwhelming favorite to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl. They will be favored in each of their playoff games, as they will more than likely be home in Foxboro for each of them.
The worst matchup for the Pats by default is the Pittsburgh Steelers. This isn’t a bad matchup on paper, but Pittsburgh is the only team that New England can face that has a big-time quarterback and a multi-dimensional offense. The lack of an elite pass rush for the Steelers won’t help, but they have at least a “puncher’s chance” in a shootout.
The Kansas City Chiefs are set up to potentially beat anyone, as the can control the clock with a strong running game and they have Justin Houston, who can impact a game defensively. It’s tough to imagine Alex Smith leading a team to enough points against a Bill Belichick coached team to outscore a Tom Brady led team.
The obvious toughest matchup for Pittsburgh is New England, but they’re the toughest matchup for each of the teams. Aside from the Pats, the toughest matchup for the Steelers would be the Chiefs. Justin Houston can abuse the Pittsburgh offensive line and the Chiefs can score methodically against a mediocre Steelers defense.
The next toughest matchup will be the Houston Texans. Houston has a very good defense that will keep them in games and although quarterback Tom Savage doesn’t have much experience, there isn’t much film on him. He has shown an ability to throw the ball downfield and the Texans have big play wide receivers.
Kansas City Chiefs
The Chiefs toughest matchup outside of New England may actually be the Houston Texans. Houston defeated them earlier this season and Kansas City doesn’t have a dynamic, big-play offense to hurt the Texans secondary. Houston is slightly better at the quarterback position right now than they were in the earlier matchup.
The Steelers are the only AFC team outside of New England with a better quarterback than the Chiefs, and they do a very good job of stopping the run. Pittsburgh can potentially overwhelm Kansas City in the deep passing game.
The Miami Dolphins can be a mirror image of the Chiefs, as both teams are dependent on running the football and need solid, but unspectacular quarterback play to win. Miami has a very good defensive line and quarterback Matt Moore is about as functional as a backup quarterback can be.
The Dolphins may have already defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers this year, but that was the game Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was hurt in. Miami likely doesn’t want a rematch as Pittsburgh can shred their secondary and stop the run.
Even without Derek Carr, the Oakland Raiders match up very well with Miami. They can challenge the Dolphins passing offense and Khalil Mack can wreck a team’s game plan. Oakland can run the football with Latavius Murray and Matt McGloin can make just enough plays in the passing game to keep teams from stacking the box.
With Tom Savage at quarterback, the Texans are likely to be a decided underdog against any team they face in the playoffs. Instead of looking at the worst matchups for Houston, let’s look at the team’s they can pull off an upset against.
Kansas City is probably the Texans best matchup outside of Oakland, and only because Oakland has Matt McGloin at quarterback.
Without Derek Carr at quarterback, the Raiders don’t have very many great matchups in the postseason. If they can host Miami, that’s a winnable game, and realistically that’s about it. Oakland would probably be favored against Houston as well, and they could give a team like Pittsburgh some fits, but they’re not legitimate contenders without their starting QB.