AFC Playoff Picture 2013: Complete Seeding Predictions for the Postseason

Alex EspinozaCorrespondent IIIDecember 16, 2013

Dec 12, 2013; Denver, CO, USA; Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning (18) passes in the third quarter against the San Diego Chargers at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. The San Diego Chargers defeated the Denver Broncos 27-20. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports
Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

There are only two full weekends of NFL regular season left, and the AFC playoff picture can still go many directions.

While top teams are still contending for first-round byes and home-field advantage, the Miami Dolphins, Baltimore Ravens and San Diego Chargers are essentially locked in a three-way battle for the sixth and final AFC playoff spot.

A lot can change between now and Week 17, but here's an outlook of how the AFC postseason seeding will shake out, along with predicted records.


1. Denver Broncos (13-3)

The Broncos (11-3) are currently tied with the Kansas City Chiefs atop the AFC West and the conference, but Denver wins the tiebreaker between the two clubs by virtue of its season sweep.

Denver's 27-20 loss to the Chargers on Thursday night gave the New England Patriots control of the No. 1 seed, but the Dolphins helped out the Broncos by pulling off a 24-20 win over the Patriots on Sunday:

All season long, Peyton Manning and the Broncos have been a Super Bowl favorite to emerge out of the AFC, and they've lived up to expectations. Last week's loss complicated things, but with upcoming games against the Houston Texans (2-12) and Oakland Raiders (4-10), the Broncos should roll into the postseason with a 13-3 record and home-field advantage.


2. Cincinnati Bengals (11-5)

The Bengals (9-5) have become a playoff fixture under Marvin Lewis in recent years. Though they still haven't clinched a postseason berth, I suspect the Bengals will beat the Minnesota Vikings in Week 16 and then defeat the Ravens in the season finale to win the AFC North outright.

Cincinnati couldn't capitalize on a loss by the New England Patriots last week, suffering its own 30-20 defeat to the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 15, but hold the tiebreaker over the Patriots with their 13-6 win in the Week 5 meeting between the two division leaders.

This would mark the third straight season and fourth out of five years when the club made the postseason. Cincinnati hasn't made it out of the Wild Card Round in Lewis' tenure but would do so with a first-round bye this year.


3. New England Patriots (11-5)

Dec 15, 2013; Miami Gardens, FL, USA:  New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (12) reacts after an incomplete pass against the Miami Dolphins in the fourth quarter at Sun Life Stadium. The Dolphins won 24-20. Mandatory Credit: Robert Mayer-USA TODAY S
Robert Mayer-USA TODAY Sports

Life without Rob Gronkowski is going to be tough for Tom Brady and the Patriots (10-4) heading down the final stretch of the season.

Sunday's 24-20 loss to the Dolphins caused major shockwaves throughout the conference, with the Patriots losing a chance to control their own destiny for home-field advantage. Now the Patriots will have a tough shot at catching up to the Broncos for the No. 1 seed, as detailed by David Steele of Sporting News.

And benefiting most might have been the team that already played, and lost: the Broncos, who saw the path to the Super Bowl redirected back through Denver. Peyton Manning and Co. now have their fate back in their hands; if they win their final two, or at least finish with a better record than New England, they stay home and avoid any chance of another trip to Foxboro.

The Patriots face a tough matchup against the Ravens in Week 16 but wrap up the season with a home date against the Buffalo Bills in a game they should win easily.


4. Indianapolis Colts (10-6)

Andrew Luck and the Colts (9-5) have already wrapped up the AFC South, which was arguably the NFL's weakest division this year with the other three teams (Tennessee Titans, Jacksonville Jaguars, Texans) combining for 11 wins so far.

The team is trying to find consistency heading into January, and coach Chuck Pagano was encouraged by his team's 25-3 win over the Texans on Sunday, per Michael Marot of the Associated Press:

"We needed it," Pagano said. "We talked all week about coming back and even though we had clinched the division, we wanted to start building or gaining some momentum."

Sunday's matchup against the Chiefs will be a big one, but I suspect the Colts will lose to Kansas City before beating Jacksonville to settle into the No. 4 spot. In all likelihood, Kansas City and Indianapolis will have a rematch in the Wild Card Round of the playoffs.


5. Kansas City Chiefs (12-4)

Think NFL coaches don't scoreboard watch? Think again.

Before Sunday's contest in Oakland, Jim Trotter of Sports Illustrated caught Kansas City's coaching staff eagerly watching the final stages of Miami's close win over the New England Patriots.

Later in the afternoon, Jamaal Charles would score five touchdowns to lead Kansas City (11-3) to an impressive 56-31 win.

While the Chiefs are now a game ahead of the Patriots, they still face an uphill battle playing in the same division as Denver. Whether the team wins two, one or none of its final games, Kansas City looks locked into the top wild-card spot.


6. Miami Dolphins (10-6)

Defensive back Michael Thomas was signed on Tuesday and might have saved the team's playoffs hopes on Sunday. He made two big plays in the final stages of the 24-20 win over the Patriots, including an interception in the end zone to seal the victory.

With contests coming up against the Bills and New York Jets, Miami (8-6) should be able to fend off the Ravens (7-6) and the Chargers (7-7) for the final playoff spot by winning its final two games.

Baltimore holds the tiebreaker over the Dolphins with its 26-23 win in Week 5, but it's hard to see the Ravens going 3-0 against the Detroit Lions, Patriots and Bengals to end the season.