With just three games left in the NFL regular season, the playoff picture is getting clearer. However, there are still a lot of questions to be answered as the season winds down.
This week, the AFC #1 seed Kansas City Chiefs (11-2) take on the AFC #5 seed Los Angeles Chargers (10-3) on Thursday Night Football. Regardless of the outcome, the Chiefs will remain the top seed in the AFC, as they hold the tiebreaker over the Chargers, though a loss would certainly tighten that cushion.
A Chiefs win would clinch not only a division title for the Chiefs, but also a first-round bye. The Chiefs can clinch home-field advantage and the #1 seed throughout the AFC playoffs if the Patriots lose to the Steelers on Sunday.
The Chargers can also clinch a playoff berth with any of the following scenarios:
1) LAC win or tie OR
2) MIA loss or tie + PIT loss OR
3) MIA loss or tie + BAL loss or tie OR
4) MIA loss or tie + IND loss or tie + TEN loss or tie OR
5) PIT loss + IND loss or tie + TEN loss or tie OR
6) BAL loss or tie + IND loss or tie + TEN loss or tie
A win would also give Los Angeles two playoff teams for the first time since 1985.
The AFC #2 seed New England Patriots (10-4) head to Pittsburgh to take on the AFC #4 seed Pittsburgh Steelers (7-5-1), with the Steelers hanging on to their playoff hopes after losing three straight games in heartbreaking fashion. Pittsburgh has dropped two games to teams outside of the playoff picture (Broncos and Raiders). They also collapsed by giving up a two-score lead to the Chargers at home a couple of weeks ago.
Now, to keep their playoff hopes alive, the Steelers must face Super Bowl contenders in the Patriots and Saints over the next two weeks with only a half-game lead over the Ravens. A loss to the Pats could relinquish control of Pittsburgh’s destiny if the Ravens beat the Buccaneers.
New England could have clinched the AFC East for the tenth consecutive season last Sunday, but a deflating loss to the Dolphins pushed their potential clincher to this upcoming Sunday. The Patriots can win the AFC East with a win over the Steelers and a Dolphins loss to the Vikings.
As BRBers know, the AFC #3 seed Houston Texans (9-4) had their nine-game winning streak come to an end last Sunday with a loss to the Colts. Luckily for Houston, the team maintains a two-game lead in the AFC South over the Titans and Colts. The Texans can clinch the AFC South this week with a win over the Jets on Saturday and losses from the Titans and Colts.
Now, this is when things get messy...
Four teams currently sit at 7-6 — Baltimore, Indianapolis, Miami, and Tennessee. With only one wild card spot for the four of them to fight over, since the runner-up in the AFC West will undoubtedly snag one of the at-large berths, things could get intense.
This weekend’s games:
TB @ BAL
DAL @ IND
MIA @ MIN
TEN @ NYG
The Ravens are the team in control of their own destiny as they currently hold the sixth seed in the AFC. However, the team must still go to LA to face the Chargers in Week 16 in what could play a huge role in the final accounting of AFC playoff teams. Baltimore is also in striking distance of the division crown, with Pittsburgh’s lead over them at a half-game and the Steelers having the most difficult schedule remaining.
If the Dolphins can get past the Vikings this week, they will close their regular season down with two teams they should beat who are heading for the couch this offseason in the Jaguars and Bills. That could put Miami in prime position to nab the second wild card.
Tennessee and Indianapolis play each other in Week 17; that could ultimately be a game that puts one in the postseason and sends the other home.
The Denver Broncos (6-7) currently hold the AFC’s tenth seed, but they’re just a game back of the sixth seed. Their loss on Sunday to the San Francisco 49ers really hurt their playoff chances. However, Denver will still have a chance to get the playoffsif they can get to 9-7. That quest starts on Saturday night when the Broncos face the Browns.
With Houston likely heading for the third seed behind Kansas City and New England, the race for the sixth seed in the AFC should be something Texans fans should keep their eye on. Remember—if the Texans do earn the third seed, they’d host the sixth seed/second wild card team on that first weekend in January at NRG Stadium.
Who will be the sixth seed in the AFC Playoffs?
This poll is closed