2023 NFL playoffs: Ranking contenders for No. 1 seed in AFC

There's a fun race developing for some of the most valuable real estate in sports. Since the NFL moved to a 14-team playoff field and limited the first-round bye to the top seed in each conference during the 2020 season, landing that bye has been incredibly valuable for teams with Super Bowl aspirations. In a small sample of six teams, four 1-seeds have advanced to the championship game. That group includes both top seeds a year ago, with the Chiefs and Eagles both enjoying a week off before storming into Arizona for a classic Super Bowl.

While those same Eagles hold a two-game lead for the top spot in the NFC, the No. 1 spot in the AFC remains up for grabs. Three different teams held the 1-seed in the AFC at one point or another Sunday. The Jaguars claimed it after the early games with their narrow win over the Texans. A comeback victory by the Chiefs over the Raiders put Patrick Mahomes & Co. in front after the afternoon games. When the Ravens claimed the night game with a victory over the Chargers, John Harbaugh's team ensured it will hit its upcoming bye atop the conference.

Throw in the Dolphins, who blew out the Jets in the NFL's Black Friday debut, and there are four three-loss teams in the conference. With all due respect to the Browns, Steelers and everyone else in the conference, it's extremely likely the top seed in the AFC will come from one of those three-loss teams riding high atop their respective divisions.

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Let's break down that race with six weeks to go. What happened to these teams in Week 12? What's going on with them this season? And what does their path to the top seed in the AFC look like over the next month and a half? I'll also include the ESPN Football Power Index (FPI) odds for each team to get the 1-seed. We'll start with the team with the best chance to land it:

Jump to a team:
Chiefs | Dolphins
Jaguars | Ravens

1. Kansas City Chiefs (8-3)

Week 12 result: Beat Raiders 31-17
Chances of being the 1-seed, per FPI: 42.2%

As is often the case for the Chiefs, the Raiders served as an opportunity to get right after a difficult loss. During Andy Reid's time in Kansas City, Kansas City has gone 18-3 against its division rivals, including a 6-1 record in games against the Raiders after a defeat. Sunday's win was basically a typical matchup between these two teams, as the Chiefs have won the average contest between these two games by a score of 33-19. It wasn't a breeze -- Las Vegas went up 14-0 early in the second quarter -- but the Chiefs scored touchdowns on four of their next five possessions to take control.