AFC playoff picture, Week 17: Chargers control destiny

Only one week remains in the 2014 NFL regular season, and plenty is still to be decided in the AFC. While five of the playoff spots are clinched, a division is up for grabs along with the sixth and final seed.

Let’s take a look at the current playoff picture:

1. New England Patriots (12-3) ***
2. Denver Broncos (11-4) **
3. Cincinnati Bengals (10-4-1) *
4. Indianapolis Colts (10-5) **
5. Pittsburgh Steelers (10-5) *
6. San Diego Chargers (9-6)

*** – Home-field advantage
** – Division winner* – Clinched playoff berth

In the hunt

7. Baltimore Ravens (9-6)
8. Houston Texans (8-7)
9. Kansas City Chiefs (8-7)

New England has clinched home-field throughout the playoffs with its win over the New York Jets on Sunday and the Broncos defeat in Cincinnati on Monday night.

Denver can finish no lower than the third seed, and wraps up a first-round bye with a win over the Oakland Raiders at Sports Authority Field this weekend.

Cincinnati is in the playoffs and can win the AFC North with a victory at Heinz Field on Sunday Night Football against the Steelers. With a win and a Broncos loss, the Bengals would be the second seed.

Indianapolis is locked into the fourth seed and will play the No. 5 seed. The possible opponents for Indianapolis are Pittsburgh and Cincinnati.

Pittsburgh can move into the third seed by beating the Bengals, regardless of any other outcome. With a loss, the Steelers would only stay in the fifth seed.

San Diego simply needs to win, and its in. A loss, and the Chargers would be eliminated from playoff contention barring ties.

Baltimore needs to win against the Cleveland Browns at home and hope that the Chiefs knock off the Chargers at Arrowhead Stadium. Should that happen, the Ravens will be the No. 6 seed and play either Pittsburgh, Cincinnati or Denver.

Houston must defeat the Jacksonville Jaguars at NRG Stadium, then hope for Baltimore and San Diego to fall. The Texans would grab the No. 6 seed.

Kansas City needs to beat the Chargers, then wish for Houston and Baltimore, both double-digit favorites at home, to lose. If the Chiefs are granted the miracle, they would be the sixth seed.

About Matt Verderame

Matt Verderame, 26, is a New Yorker who went to school at the frozen tundra of SUNY Oswego. After graduating, Verderame has worked for Gannett and SB Nation among other ventures.