With Week 16 nearly over, the NFL regular season is winding down, and the AFC playoff picture is nearly set.
With just one game remaining for each of the 16 AFC teams, all four division titles have already been locked up, with one of the two wild-card spots clinched as well. The NFC is a completely different story, with only two playoffs teams set and no division titles clinched.
Below is a look at the current playoff picture for the AFC, followed by a breakdown of what could happen in Week 17 and what the standings could look like at the end of the regular season.
|2||z-New England Patriots||11||4|
|5||x-Kansas City Chiefs||11||4|
|8||San Diego Chargers||8||7|
z=Clinched Division, x=Clinched Playoff Berth
Although all of the divisions have been clinched, Week 17 will play an important role in seeding for the playoffs. Currently, the Denver Broncos hold the No. 1 seed and have clinched a first-round bye. However, if they lose and the New England Patriots win, the Broncos will move to No. 2, giving Tom Brady and company home-field advantage despite all of their struggles this year.
The Patriots could move anywhere from No. 1 to No. 4 based on how this week goes. They have a relatively easy game against the Buffalo Bills, but if they lose, things could go wrong quickly. If the Cincinnati Bengals win, then the Pats will move to No. 3, but they'll move to No. 4 if both the Bengals and Indianapolis Colts win.
A win for the Bengals is no guarantee this week, as they have a pretty tough game against the Baltimore Ravens, who are currently fighting for the final wild-card spot.
On the other hand, the Colts have an easy matchup against the Jacksonville Jaguars and shouldn't have a problem finishing the season at 11-5 for the second straight year. So if the Bengals lose, the Colts have a good chance at moving ahead of them in the seeding.
Regardless of what the Kansas City Chiefs do this week, they will be the No. 5 seed in the playoffs, which means that there is a good chance that they decide to rest their starters and focus on staying healthy heading into the postseason.
The final wild-card spot is where things get interesting, as the Miami Dolphins, Ravens, San Diego Chargers and Pittsburgh Steelers are all in the running for that last playoff berth.
It sounds pretty complicated, and it is.
The Ravens have arguably the easiest way to get in. If they can win and either the Chargers or Dolphins lose, then they're in the playoffs. The Dolphins can get in with a win and a loss from the Ravens or a win from the Chargers.
For San Diego, it can get it with a win and losses from both the Dolphins and Ravens. The Steelers will have to win and hope for all three of those teams to lose.
At the end of the day, the AFC picture is nearly complete, and whoever grabs the last wild-card spot is going to struggle to get out of the first round. The Broncos are the clear favorites to come out of the conference, but the NFL has shown us time and time again that any team can get hot when the playoffs start.