AFC Playoff Picture: Broncos Likely in, Others Need to Win Out

Dan AdamsCorrespondent IDecember 15, 2009

MIAMI, FL - JANUARY 4:  An NFL playoff banner is on display as the Miami Dolphins host the Baltimore Ravens in an NFL Wildcard Playoff Game at Dolphins Stadium on January 4, 2009 in Miami, Florida.  (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)
Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images

Only nine of the 126 wild card teams (7.1 percent) have ever reached the Super Bowl since 1970. The other playoff teams have comprised of 248 division winners.

To make what could be a very long story and list of numbers shorter, the odds are stacked against the teams who do not play the best in their division.

The likely wild card candidates in the AFC will each be profiled in a section below. Their statistics, strength of schedule, record against teams with winning records, and a number of other factors were put into consideration when ranking their likeliness to make the playoffs and win at least three playoff games.

When the NFL reformatted in 2002, wildcard teams were no longer given the chance to play at home. Yet another obstacle for these wild card teams.


Likely Wild Card Contenders

Denver Broncos (8-5)

Their remaining opponents: OAK (4-9), @PHI (9-4), KC (3-10)

Projected Overall Record: 10-6

Projected Conference Record: 8-4

Key Losses: @BAL, PIT, SD, @IND

Key Victories: @CIN, NE, @SD

Bottom Line: Two very likely victories against their divisional cupcakes are crucial to Denver getting into the postseason.

Those two victories would give them a conference record of 8-4, vital when it comes to three-way tiebreakers. Its chances of getting into the playoffs are very good.

Chance at a Playoff Berth: 75 percent


Baltimore Ravens (7-6):

Their remaining opponents: CHI (4-9), @PIT (6-7), @OAK (4-9)

Projected Overall Record: 9-7

Projected Conference Record: 7-5

Key Losses: @NE, CIN, @CIN, IND

Key Victories:  DEN, @SD, PIT

Bottom Line: I would have to consider the Baltimore Ravens a relatively overrated team based on the following facts: Six of their wins are really iffy (CLE, @CLE, DET, KC, @SD, PIT). They played San Diego early when it was really struggling as well as the Steelers during their season-ending skid.

Chance at a Playoff Berth: 50 percent


Miami Dolphins (7-6):

Their remaining opponents: @TEN (6-7), HOU (6-7), PIT (6-7)

Projected Overall Record: 9-7

Projected Conference Record: 7-5

Key Losses: IND, @SD, @NE, @BUF

Key Victories:  NYJ, @NYJ, NE, @JAX

Bottom Line: A season sweep over the New York Jets and a split with the Patriots make the Dolphins a legitimate division contender as well as a wild card candidate.

Winning four of their last five has brought them to the center of attention in the AFC East and a must-win against the Jags last week improved their chances.

Chance at a Playoff Berth: 50 percent



Jacksonville Jaguars (7-6)

Their remaining opponents: IND (13-0), @NE (7-6), @CLE (2-11)

Projected Overall Record: 8-8

Projected Conference Record: 7-5

Key Losses: @IND, @TEN, MIA

Key Victories:  TEN, @HOU, @NYJ, BUF, HOU

Bottom Line: The next game against Indianapolis is going to make or break the season for the Jaguars.

With a prominent running attack led by Maurice Jones-Drew, they are built to win a playoff game. Their only chance of making the playoffs lies in winning one of the next two games.

Chance at a Playoff Berth: 30 percent



New York Jets (7-6):

Their remaining opponents: ATL (6-7), @IND (13-0), CIN (9-4)

Projected Overall Record: 9-7

Projected Conference Record: 6-6

Key Losses: @MIA, BUF, MIA, JAX, @NE

Key Victories:  @NE, HOU, TEN, @ BUF

Bottom Line: Lets face it, New York may not have any of its three football teams in the playoffs this season.

It's sad because the Jets had won their first three and have won their last three, but they are looking to the future and need to get some targets for Sanchez moving into next season.

Chance at a Playoff Berth: 25 percent


Realistically, none of the 6-7 teams have the ability to get into the playoffs based on their poor conference records and inability to win in a tiebreaker situation.

After reviewing the AFC playoff picture through these profiles, the Denver Broncos are pretty much a lock to get into the playoffs if they win at home this weekend.

That leaves one playoff spot open to the other contenders. The most likely candidates are Baltimore and Miami.

If they finished tied at 9-7 based on the projected scenario, it would go down to the tiebreaker based on common opponents. That would give the edge to the Ravens based on projections.