The six franchises representing the AFC in the upcoming NFL postseason are set, but the three top teams still have a lot left to play for in Week 17.
There are byes and home-field advantage at stake, so let’s take a look at the top teams in the conference and the various playoff implications surrounding them in the season finale.
*Scenarios assume there are no ties in Week 17.
Houston Texans (12-3)
The Texans are currently sitting atop the AFC, but their perch is extremely unstable and there is a chance they could come toppling down this week.
Houston has a tough matchup with its AFC South rivals—the Indianapolis Colts—in the last game of 2012, and the Colts are going to be hungry for revenge.
Remember, the Texans killed any chance of Indy locking up the division back in Week 15, and the best payback for Andrew Luck and company would be to send Houston spiraling from the No. 1 to the No. 3 seed by winning at Lucas Oil Stadium.
It’ll be interesting to see if they can get it done and knock the AFC’s top team all season into the No. 3 seed.
2. New England loss
3. Denver loss
2. New England loss and Denver loss
Denver Broncos (12-3)
Peyton Manning’s MVP-worthy 2012 campaign will likely end with a playoff bye, but nothing is certain in today’s NFL.
All it will take for the Broncos to get an extra week of rest heading into the 2013 postseason is a win over the lowly Kansas City Chiefs. Denver is favored by more than two touchdowns (courtesy of ScoresandOdds.com) and it would be one of the biggest upsets of the season if KC were to win.
The Broncos are also hoping that the Colts can take care of business, as a win there would give them an incredible advantage by hosting every game through the AFC Championship at Mile High.
2. New England loss
1. Denver win and Houston loss
New England Patriots (11-4)
The Pats are one game behind the other two AFC leaders, and that looks to be a difficult gap to close with just one week left in the regular season.
It appears that Bill Belichick’s squad will be playing in a Wild Card Weekend matchup, but there is a small chance they will be afforded a bye should either Denver or Houston falter.
Let’s take a look at what must happen in order for New England to sneak up and steal a bye—and possibly even win the AFC.
1. Win and Denver loss
2. Win and Houston loss
1. Win, Denver Loss and Houston loss