Three teams sit atop of both the AFC East and West divisions at the halfway point of this NFL season.
There is still plenty of football left to be played, as each team has at least one game remaining against one another except for the San Diego Chargers and the Kansas City Chiefs: They completed their season series by Halloween with each team winning a game apiece.
Each passing week now becomes more important in the battle for a playoff berth.
Here are the biggest hurdles between each team and the playoffs:
It’s hard to imagine that Tom Brady and co. are fighting for their playoff lives in the second half of this season. No argument that their passing game is among the elite in the NFL, but the Pats' biggest challenge is to find some sort of running game and defense. If not, they will be home for the New Year.
In their last two games, the Jets' defense had dominant performances against the Chargers and the Buffalo Bills. Does this prove that their back as serious playoff contenders in the AFC race? Maybe, but the jury is still out.
Don’t let overconfidence take you down a notch, as they Jets still have questions to answer. Mark Sanchez is still inconsistent throwing the football and the lack of a pass rush could stop them in their tracks.
For all of their success, the Buffalo Bills still play in the shadows of the Pats and Jets. They must find a way to take the AFC East crown, especially if RB Fred Jackson continues to lead the league in rushing.
In big games, QB Ryan Fitzpatrick must continue to pull off amazing fourth-quarter comebacks, as they try to push themselves ahead of their divisional foes. Cornerback Drayton Florence must become a more aggressive pass defender, as his coverage skills have been exploited by excellent passing teams.
At times, the Oakland Raiders have played well, but they need to become more consistent if they’re going to win the AFC West. They must find a way to keep RB Darren McFadden healthy, as their high-powered running game is the key to success. This franchise is hungry, but they have to stop losing to inferior teams on the way to a playoff berth.
The Kansas City Chiefs have to thank Chargers QB Philip Rivers for fumbling a win away and keeping them in the hunt for an AFC West title. Injuries have decimated their roster, but this team has shown toughness and poise on their way to another playoff appearance. The Chiefs must hope for the Raiders to stumble and fall off the path to a divisional crown.
The Chargers have the talent to become the top seed of the AFC, but they will never fulfill this goal again under Norv Turner. What started to be a successful season has turn into an utter nightmare.
This team never shows a sense of urgency on the field, as neither the offense nor defense picks up the pace in a game against quality teams.
The fortunate part for the Chargers is their schedule becomes a little bit easier after next week’s game against the Chicago Bears. But, it could be too little, too late