Week 13 AFC Playoff Picture
Week 13 is underway and the AFC playoff race is about as muddled as it can get. The Colts have clinched the AFC South, after that it's Thunder Dome. Here's how it looks heading into Sunday:
In Need Of A Festivus Miracle
Tennessee Titans (5-6) The fact that the Titans are even in it is a miracle in itself. After an 0-6 start Tennessee has reeled off five straight wins but the Titans might have put themselves in too big a hole. Tennessee has only a 3-6 record in the all-important conference record tiebreaker. The Titans play Indianapolis this week and will play division leader San Diego on Christmas Day. The Titans must run the table and get a lot of help.
New York Jets (6-6) With the 19-13 win over Buffalo on Thursday the Jets took another step towards the playoffs but it was only a baby step. New York is 5-5 in the AFC, better than Tennessee, but the Jets end the season against Atlanta, Indianapolis and Cincinnati. Furthermore the Jets have already lost the head-to-head tiebreaker to Miami. That means if the Jets and Dolphins are tied for a playoff spot the Dolphins would get in.
In Need Of Help
Houston Texans (5-6) Houston has a big game with Jacksonville this week that really serves as a must-win for the Texans. If Houston wins the schedule becomes favorable as the Texans should get gimme wins over Seattle and St. Louis before ending with Miami and New England. Houston will likely need to run the table and can do themselves a favor by beating the Jaguars and Dolphins.
Miami Dolphins (5-6) Of the four AFC teams with six losses the Dolphins are in the best position. Miami has beaten the Jets twice and will play Jacksonville, Tennessee, Houston and Pittsburgh to end the season. That's a treacherous finish but the Dolphins can pick up the head-to-head tiebreaker against all four playoff contenders.
Pittsburgh Steelers (6-5) The Steelers should get back on track the next two weeks with wins over Oakland and Cleveland. That will be necessary because the Steelers are behind Baltimore and Jacksonville in conference play. Pittsburgh has a huge Week 16 showdown with the Ravens. That will be a must win otherwise the Ravens will sweep the season series.
Baltimore Ravens (6-5) Baltimore has two tough road games left against Green Bay and Pittsburgh. There's no way the Ravens can lose both and stay in the playoff race. Baltimore will need some help as Jacksonville has two less losses in the AFC but while the road schedule is difficult the home schedule is a breeze with Detroit, Chicago and Oakland on the menu.
Controlling Their Destiny
Jacksonville Jaguars (6-5) The Jaguars did not face Baltimore or Pittsburgh this year so if Jacksonville wins out they will be 11-5 but more importantly will have a 10-2 conference record. That would eliminate the Steelers and Ravens from contention. Easier said than done though. The Jaguars get three straight home games against Houston, Miami and Indianapolis before finishing at New England and Cleveland.
Denver Broncos (7-4) Denver has the best wild card record heading into Week 13 but the Broncos have been in a tailspin since starting 6-0. The Broncos will be well rested having last played on Thanksgiving and will face two tough road games against Indianapolis and Philadelphia. The plus side is the Broncos have two meeting against the Chiefs, including one in Kansas City this week.
New England Patriots (7-4) After getting ripped by New Orleans on Monday night the Patriots find themselves with the worst record of the division leaders. Granted the Pats are only a game behind Cincinnati and San Diego but it will be tough to leapfrog over both to get a first round bye.
Cincinnati Bengals (8-3) What a year for Cincinnati. With a 6-0 record in the AFC North it will take a catastrophic finish for the Bengals to not win the division. However, for the Bengals to grab a first round bye they must navigate through back-to-back road games against Minnesota and San Diego.
San Diego Chargers (8-3) With only a one game lead in the AFC West nothing is guaranteed for the Chargers. The break for San Diego is a home date against the Bengals in Week 15 that will serve as a huge tiebreaker. The Chargers also face a difficult road game against Dallas and must travel to Tennessee on a short week.