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AFC Apocalypse

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So you've seen the AFC playoff picture, but what happens if New England, Miami, New York, Cincinnati, Baltimore, Jacksonville and Denver all finish 9-7?  Miami would win the AFC East thanks to a better conference record than New England.  Cincinnati wins the AFC North with the head-to-head tiebreaker over Baltimore.

 

That leaves the Patriots, Jets, Ravens, Jaguars and Broncos for the two wild card spots.  The Jets would be the first team eliminated as New England will have a better division record and would thus be the highest ranking club remaining in the AFC East.  Jacksonville would be the #5 seed courtesy of an 8-4 AFC record.

 

After that it gets real tricky.  If Denver beats Philadelphia but loses to Kansas City the Ravens grab the final wild card spot thanks to a 7-5 AFC record, which would trump Denver (6-6) and New England (6-6).  However, if the Broncos lose to Philadelphia and beat Kansas City then the Broncos and Ravens would finish with the same conference record.  At this point it's unclear how the tiebreaking procedure works.  If a worse conference record eliminates New England then Baltimore would get in the playoffs based on the head-to-head win over Denver.  However, if one team needs a superior record over both then it would come down to strength of victory which currently favors Denver.

 

UPDATE New England and Cincinnati both won today, thus clinching their respective divisions, so there will be a slightly less apocalyptic feel to the AFC.  However there is a chance that Miami, New York, Baltimore, Pittsburgh, Jacksonville, Houston and Denver all finish 8-8.  In that case the Jets, Steelers and Texans would be eliminated due to divisional tiebreakers, leaving Miami, Baltimore, Jacksonville & Denver for the wild card.
 
Once again Jacksonville would grab one wild card spot due by virtue of having the best conference record.  Miami, Baltimore and Denver would have the same conference and common opponent record, so the tiebreaker would come down to the strength of victory.  I actually did the math and thanks to wins against Cincinnati, Dallas, New England and San Diego earlier in the year Denver would grab the final wild card berth.
 
That's why every game in the NFL is important.

 

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