Week 16 AFC Playoff Picture
Two divisions up for grabs. Seven teams within a game of each other for the two wild card entries. This is what we mean when we say Thunder Dome.
In Need Of A Festivus Miracle
Pittsburgh Steelers (7-7) Pittsburgh's last second win over the Packers in Week 15 kept their playoff hopes alive but now the Steelers turn around and face two more playoff worthy teams to end the season. The Steelers need to beat Baltimore today and Miami next week and then need a lot of help. The Steelers are only 4-6 in conference play and even if they win both they would lose tiebreakers to Baltimore, Houston and any team with a better conference record.
Houston Texans (7-7) The Texans play Miami today in an elimination game for both teams. If Houston gets past the Dolphins on the road today they might catch a break by getting New England at home in Week 17. Like Pittsburgh, the Texans need to win out and get a ton of help as Houston is also 4-6 in conference play. Furthermore, Houston loses the divisional tiebreaker to Jacksonville.
New York Jets (7-7) With a 5-5 AFC record the Jets are slightly ahead of Pittsburgh and Houston but New York has a couple of things working against them. First, the Jets have lost the divisional tiebreaker to Miami so the Jets need to finish ahead of the Dolphins. Second, New York finishes with a tough stretch, at unbeaten Indianapolis today and Cincinnati at home next week which will be a big game if the AFC North is still in doubt.
In Need Of Help
Miami Dolphins (7-7) Miami can squash playoff hopes throughout the AFC over the final two weeks with home games against Houston and Pittsburgh. The Dolphins hold tiebreakers over the Jets and Jaguars but that Jacksonville tiebreaker applies if the two teams are the only ones tied for the final playoff spot. Miami can still win the AFC East with two wins and two New England losses as the Dolphins would have a superior conference record.
Jacksonville Jaguars (7-7) With a 6-4 AFC record the Jaguars are a dangerous team if they finish 9-7. Indeed if the AFC turns apocalyptic and the Patriots, Dolphins, Jets, Bengals, Ravens, Steelers, Jaguars and Broncos all finish at 9-7 the Jaguars become the #5 seed due to that conference record. Jacksonville ends the year with two road games: New England and Cleveland.
Controlling Their Destiny
Denver Broncos (8-6) The AFC West is now out of reach but the playoffs are at their fingertips. Denver currently holds the final wild card bid due to losing the head-to-head tiebreaker to Baltimore but two wins by Denver gets them in. The Broncos face a tough road matchup against Philadelphia today but next week Denver hosts Kansas City, a team they beat 44-13 on December 6.
Baltimore Ravens (8-6) Two wins will put Baltimore in the playoffs, but will they be a wild card team or division champs? Baltimore needs to win out and get two Cincinnati losses to win the AFC North. Even if the Ravens can't catch the Bengals a win today against Pittsburgh goes a long way toward clinching a playoff birth.
Cincinnati Bengals (9-5) It's hard to believe that just a week ago the Bengals had a chance to earn a first round bye. But last week's loss to the Chargers followed by San Diego's Friday night win ended Cincinnati's chances of grabbing the #2 seed. Now Cincinnati holds the #4 seed due to losing the strength of victory tiebreaker to New England. A Cincinnati win or a Baltimore loss clinches the North for the Bengals.
New England Patriots (9-5) The Patriots appear to be back on track with two straight wins and are now in a position to lock up the AFC East with a win or a Miami loss. However New England finishes with a pair of 7-7 teams in Jacksonville and Houston.
San Diego Chargers (12-3) The Chargers have clinched the AFC West and a first round bye.
Indianapolis Colts (14-0) Indianapolis has clinched the AFC South and homefield advantage throughout.