NFL Playoff Scenarios: AFC Picture For Seeds No. 3 Though 6

Nick SignorelliSenior Writer IDecember 28, 2009

PITTSBURGH - DECEMBER 27:  Head coach John Harbaugh (R) of the Baltimore Ravens and head coach Mike Tomlin of the Pittsburgh Steelers meet at midfield before the game at Heinz Field on December 27, 2009 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Karl Walter/Getty Images)
Karl Walter/Getty Images

Last week at this time, there were eight teams fighting for the two AFC wild-card positions. Two teams at 8-6, four teams at 7-7. Now, there are five teams remaining.

Sunday's games will determine seeds 3-6.

Seed 3 - New England Patriots or Cincinnati Bengals

Seed 4 - New England Patriots or Cincinnati Bengals

The Bengals and Patriots have already won their divisions, and are guaranteed a home game in the AFC Playoffs. Both teams are 10-4, so if one wins, and the other loses, the winner will be the three seed, and the loser will be the four.

If BOTH teams win, or lose, the following is the tiebreaker procedure according to

1 - Head-to-head, if applicable.

No head to head game. N/A

2 - Best won-lost-tied percentage in games played within the conference.

If both teams win or both teams lose, then they would have an identical conference record. N/A

3 - Best won-lost-tied percentage in common games, minimum of four.

Common opponents

Ravens / Texans / Jets / Broncos

The Bengals are currently 2-2, with one game to play against the Jets.

The Patriots are currently 2-2, with one game to play against the Texans.

Meaning that if both teams win, or both teams lose, their records will be identical in this category as well. N/A

Strength of victory.  This is defined by as the combined records of the opponents in each of the team's wins.

Bengals - 68 wins, .403

Patriots - 73 wins, .433

Considering the Jets and Texans have the same record, regardless of both teams winning or losing, this number would not change. By virtue of the third tiebreaker, the Patriots hold the tiebreaker over the Bengals, and if both teams have the same outcome, the Pats would get the No. 3 seed.

For those of you that do not believe there is a difference between being the three or four seed, if both advance past the wild-card round, the difference is playing against the No. 1 seed, or the No. 2 seed.

Add to that, if both the three and four seed defeat the top two seeds, then the AFC Championship will be played at the three seed.

According to, this is the tiebreak scenario for the AFC.

Seeds five and six are a LOT more confusing.

There are five teams that are still battling for the final two spots.

Baltimore Ravens

Denver Broncos

Pittsburgh Steelers

Houston Texans

New York Jets

I am not going to even begin to get into the tie breakers between these five teams. Suffice it to say, two will advance, three will go home. Here is the interesting part.

Sunday's games.

New England Patriots vs. Houston Texans

Cincinnati Bengals vs. New York Jets

The two teams that are guaranteed to make the playoffs, will both be playing two teams that are trying to earn the w ild-card spots. Currently, the Patriots/Texans game is scheduled for 1:00 p.m., while the Bengals/Jets game is set for Sunday Night Football.

One of the most confusing areas in the NFL is the debate over who will go to the playoffs, and who will go home, provided all of the teams win.

One of the speculations is, if the Ravens make the playoffs, and there is a tie between more than two teams, the Steelers will be eliminated. This is wrong.  As says,

When the first Wild-Card team has been identified, the procedure is repeated to name the second Wild-Card, i.e., eliminate all but the highest-ranked club in each division prior to proceeding to step 2. In situations where three or more teams from the same division are involved in the procedure, the original seeding of the teams remains the same for subsequent applications of the tie breaker if the top-ranked team in that division qualifies for a Wild-Card berth.

This says, IF the Steelers and Ravens and any other teams have the same record, because of their better AFC North record, the Steelers would be eliminated from the five position. However, when it comes to the six seed, the Steelers are back into consideration, and the tiebreaker procedure would start over.

Meaning, if Pittsburgh, Baltimore and Denver are all 9-7, Baltimore would get the five seed because they would eliminate the Steelers by division, and eliminate the Broncos because of head to head. The number six seed would then be determined between Pittsburgh and Denver, and because of Pittsburgh defeating Denver earlier in the season, Pittsburgh would get the six seed.

At this point right now, here are the standings for the five remaining teams in the hunt for the AFC Wild Card race.

Here is the playoff scenario for each team.

Baltimore Ravens

Win and in as five seed.

New York Jets

Win and in as six seed, unless Baltimore loses, then five seed.

Pittsburgh Steelers

Win + Jets loss or tie and Texans loss or tie, or

Win + Ravens loss or tie + Jets or Texans loss or tie.

Denver Broncos

Win + Ravens loss or tie + Steelers loss or tie + Jets loss or tie or Texans loss or tie.

Houston Texans

Win + Two of the following teams must lose or tie, Baltimore/Denver/Jets

Here is the link to the tiebreaking procedure.