The AFC playoff picture is finally starting to clear up, but there is still plenty to settle. On Sunday, three divisions were clinched while a few others were all but eliminated from contention, leaving a trio of spots for six true contenders.
In the NFL, anything can happen. It will be a wild ride for all of the postseason hopefuls, with many of the remaining contests featuring two of the aforementioned contenders pitted against each other.
Here’s the current AFC playoff picture:
1. New England Patriots (11-3)*
2. Denver Broncos (11-3)*
3. Indianapolis Colts (10-4)*
4. Cincinnati Bengals (9-4-1)
5. Pittsburgh Steelers (9-5)
6. Baltimore Ravens (9-5)
In the hunt
7. Kansas City Chiefs (8-6)
8. San Diego Chargers (8-6)
9. Buffalo Bills (8-6)
New England holds the tiebreaker on Denver via head-to-head while Pittsburgh holds the edge on Baltimore because of divisional record. Kansas City beat both San Diego and Buffalo, while the Chargers beat the Bills in Week 3.
Since the NFL playoffs can be a tricky place in terms of tiebreakers and scenarios, here is the breakdown for each team going forward.
For CIN to make the postseason:
- Bengals beat Broncos
- Chiefs, Chargers and Bills lose
For PIT to make the postseason:
- Steelers beat Chiefs
For BAL to make the postseason:
- Ravens win, Steelers and Bengals lose
- Ravens win, Chiefs and Chargers lose
For KC to make the postseason:
- Chiefs beat Steelers and Chargers
- Chiefs beat Chargers, and Ravens lose out, and Bills lose once, and Texans lose to Jaguars
For SD to make the postseason:
- Chargers beat 49ers and Chiefs, and Bengals or Steelers lose twice or Ravens lose once
- Chargers beat Chiefs, Ravens lose out
For BUF to make the postseason:
- Bills beat Raiders and Patriots, and Bengals lose out
- Bills win out, and Steelers, Chiefs and Chargers all split games, and Bengals win out
Also, New England can clinch home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs with a win over the New York Jets and a loss by the Broncos at Cincinnati. The Patriots can clinch a bye with a win and no other help. Denver can also clinch a bye with a win over the Bengals.
The Cleveland Browns, Houston Texans and Miami Dolphins are all technically alive at 7-7, but would need miracles to make the postseason.
Should the Steelers, Bengals and Ravens win on Sunday, the playoff picture will be very clear come Week 17. If the Chiefs can pull a minor upset against Pittsburgh coupled with a Chargers win over the San Francisco 49ers, chaos will ensue. With two weeks remaining, almost anything is possible.