AFC Playoff Scenarios as of Week 15
The AFC Playoff Picture is much less muddled than the NFC, however, there are a few interesting matchups taking place involving AFC North teams that will likely determine the final playoff spot in the AFC.
1. Houston Texans (12-2).
The Texans have clinched the AFC South crown, and can lock up the #1 seed in the AFC with a combination of a Texans win and a loss by the Denver Broncos and New England Patriots.
2. Denver Broncos (11-3).
With nine straight wins, the Broncos have put themselves in position to potentially get the #1 seed in the AFC. It can only occur if the Texans lose both of their remaining games (vs. MIN, at IND). The Broncos need to win out to ensure at the very least a first round bye, as the New England Patriots would own the head to head tiebreaker over Denver by virtue of the Patriots’ win over Denver earlier in the regular season (should the two teams finish 12-4).
3. New England Patriots (10-4).
The Patriots’ furious comeback fell short vs. San Francisco, and in the same manner, their ability to secure a first round bye make equally fall by the wayside. They are assured of at least a #3 seed (provided that they do not lose their final two games, and Baltimore wins its final two, in which case the Ravens would secure the #3 seed and the Patriots would be the #4, after the Patriots’ last second loss to Baltimore earlier in the regular season). They can move up as highly as #1, but would have to win out, have Denver lose at least one of their two remaining games, and the Texans must lose out, as the Patriots recently ambushed the Texans in their regular season matchup. The Patriots hold tiebreaker advantages over every team that is in the AFC Playoff hunt other than Baltimore.
4. Baltimore Ravens (9-5).
The Ravens are in a precarious position. After their complete destruction at the hands of Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos in Week 15, although they “backed into” a playoff spot by virtue of losses by Indianapolis (and solidified by the Pittsburgh Steelers’ loss). The Ravens could very well lose their final two regular season games, and had they not padded their division and conference records so early in the season, they’d be losing several tiebreakers to the teams that are hot on their trails. As it stands, they can only move as highly as the #3 (with two wins and at least one loss by New England, as they own the head to head tiebreaker vs. NE), can secure the AFC North with a win on Sunday, and at the very least the #4 seed. However, one loss can drop them to the #5 seed, and losing out would land them in the #6 spot, and a likely rematch with New England. In Foxborough.
5. Indianapolis Colts (9-5).
The Colts would earn a playoff berth with a win versus Kansas City in Week 16. However, they can move no higher than #5, as the Texans have won the AFC South, and could only slide to the #6 seed — and, you guessed it, a likely rematch with New England, in Foxborough — if they lose out and the Cincinnati Bengals win both of their remaining games.
6. Cincinnati Bengals (8-6).
The Bengals would clinch at least a playoff berth if they defeat the reeling Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 16. They can win the AFC North with a combination of two wins (including one vs. current AFC North-leading Baltimore) and, in that scenario, have the Ravens also lose in Week 16 to the New York Giants. In other words, the Bengals would have to win out, and the Ravens would have to lose out in order the Bengals to win the AFC North and secure at least the #4 seed. The Bengals cannot move any higher than #4 under any circumstance, because the Broncos own the head to head tiebreaker over them, and the Texans and Patriots both own better conference records.
7. Pittsburgh Steelers (7-7).
The Steelers have not done themselves any favors in the past two weeks. They must win out and have the Ravens lose both of their remaining games to reach the playoffs.
8. New York Jets (6-8).
The Jets were eliminated from playoff contention in the most humiliating of fashions in Week 15. The Jets are not spoilers from here, either, so it is about jockeying for 2013 NFL Draft position from here.
9. Miami Dolphins (6-8).
Believe it or not, the Dolphins are still alive in the AFC Playoffs. They are listed here because of their head to head misfortunes vs. New York Jets. They would need mounds of help to secure the #6 seed, which is as high as they can go (as they lost to the Indianapolis Colts earlier in the regular season). Although they defeated the Cincinnati Bengals during the regular season (which is the only reason they are still alive), they have a lower AFC winning percentage than the Baltimore Ravens, who were assured of a playoff spot partially because the Dolphins’ 4-6 AFC record. The Dolphins must win out, need the Steelers to lose at least one of their last two games and need the Bengals to lose out.
10. Cleveland Browns (5-9).
The Browns have been eliminated from playoff contention, although they had an outside chance to eke into the #6 seed under the same scenario that the Dolphins currently have — had they defeated the Washington Redskins in Week 15. The Browns would have had an edge over the Bengals in conference record had the Browns won out, and the Bengals lost out, and both teams finished 8-8, and they also needed the Steelers to lose at least one of their final two games (they would have owned a conference record tiebreaker over Miami if both teams had won out from Week 15 going forward). They had a nice run to end the season, however. The Browns can deal serious blows to the Broncos’ first round playoff bye hopes, and officially eliminate the Steelers in Week 17 should the Steelers manage a win in Week 16.
11. San Diego Chargers (5-9).
The Chargers have officially been eliminated from playoff contention, although their play over the past six weeks was damning enough before the elimination. The Chargers needed to win in Week 15 and win out, and again, would have fallen into the same scenario that the Dolphins currently have — without the need of two Steelers losses (only one was necessary, due to their head to head win in Week 14). The Chargers are not spoilers from this point forward.
12. Tennessee Titans (5-9).
The Titans were eliminated from playoff contention in Week 14, although they can throw a wrench in Green Bay’s first round bye aspirations in Week 16.
13. Buffalo Bills (5-9).
The Bills have been eliminated from playoff contention, however, they can ruin the Dolphins’ playoff hopes with a win in Week 16.
14. Oakland Raiders (5-9).
The Raiders have been eliminated from playoff contention and are not spoilers from any team from here.
15. Jacksonville Jaguars (2-12).
The Jaguars were eliminated from playoff contention weeks ago, but could be major players in the AFC Playoff picture if they are able to win vs. New England in Week 16 (thereby ruining any chance of a New England first round bye, should the Broncos win in Week 16), and officially eliminate the Dolphins in Week 17, should the Dolphins manage a win in Week 16.
16. Kansas City Chiefs (2-12).
The Chiefs were eliminated from playoff contention weeks ago as well, but could sink the Colts’ playoff hopes with a win vs. Indianapolis in Week 16, and ruin Denver’s first round bye hopes in Week 17, potentially.