NFL Playoff Scenarios: AFC Wild Card Picture For Week 17
With one week to go, the messy AFC playoff picture has finally settled.
And by 'settled' we mean that there are now only 7 teams eligible for wild card berths, 3 teams less than last week.
Because each team only has one remaining game to play it is now possible to explain all of the possible playoff scenarios in a single article.
9-7 Wild Card Teams
There are five teams sitting at 8-7 in the AFC: the NY Jets, Baltimore Ravens, Pittsburgh Steelers, Houston Texans, and Denver Broncos.
With a win next week, three teams will have a leg up on the other two with a winning (7-5) conference record: the NY Jets, Baltimore Ravens, and Denver Broncos.
The Pittsburgh Steelers and Houston Texans will need a little help.
1. New York Jets (9-7)
The New York Jets pulled off a stunning 29-15 victory over the previously undefeated Indianapolis Colts this Sunday. Well, Manning was pulled to preserve him for the playoffs, so the victory was not totally incomprehensible.
The Jets face a win-it and in-it scenario against Cincinnati next week. They hold the tie-breakers over both Denver and Baltimore and are looking at a No. 5 Wild Card berth if one of these other two teams loses.
2. Baltimore Ravens (9-7)
The playoffs slipped through the Ravens hands this week in a 23-20 loss to division rival Pittsburgh.
The Ravens still hold the tie-breaker over the Steelers because of their greater record within the AFC North division.
A victory over the Oakland Raiders next week will be enough for the Ravens to punch their ticket to the playoff.
3. Denver Broncos (9-7)
The Denver Broncos were close to sealing a wild card berth this Sunday. But alas, they could not keep up with the NFC East leading Eagles and lost 30-27.
The Broncos are no longer in control of their own destiny with their remaining game against Kansas City.
They would lose both tie-breakers to the New York Jets (common opponents) and the Baltimore Ravens (head-to-head loss).
Additionally, unless both the Jets and Ravens lose, the Broncos are looking at a No. 6 seed.
4. Houston Texans (9-7)
An impressive 27-20 victory in Miami this Sunday places the Texans in one of their best playoff positions in franchise history.
Houston holds the tie-breaker over Pittsburgh because of a better record against common opponents.
A victory against the ever-tough New England Patriots next week and two stumbles by New York, Baltimore, and/or Denver will send the Texans to their first playoff berth in history.
5. Pittsburgh Steelers (9-7)
The results of Pittsburgh's victory over the Ravens may need to be duplicated next week against the Miami Dolphins, if the Steelers want to make the playoffs.
Three losses by the other four 9-7 contenders are what is needed for the Steelers to make the playoffs.
Alternatively, a three-way tie with Denver and either Baltimore or New York will see the Ravens or Jets taking the No. 5 seed while the Steelers beat out the Broncos by virtue of an early season victory between the two teams.
8-8 Wild Card Teams
We will pass on examining teams with 8-7-1 records. Whether such teams will make the playoffs should be obvious as no more than a single team is likely to finish with that record.
Miami, Jacksonville, and Tennessee each have 7-8 records. Tennessee, however, cannot make the playoffs because of their poor (4-8) conference record and Christmas Day loss to the San Diego Chargers..
Here are the remaining possibilities for AFC Wild Card Teams. None of these are likely, but every fan cheers for the Hail Mary.
6. Denver Broncos (8-8)
While Denver is not in the driver's seat among 8-7 teams, a fourth straight Bronco loss may not be enough to keep them out of the playoffs.
Withstanding a loss to Kansas City, Denver can advance to the playoffs with four losses by the following five teams: New York, Baltimore, Pittsburgh, Houston, and Jacksonville.
The Broncos hold the strength of victory tie-breaker over all teams at 8-8. And, if all five teams lose, an incredible feat, the Broncos can even snatch the No. 5 AFC playoff spot.
A side note: a Jacksonville tie will also suffice.
7. Jacksonville Jaguars (8-8)
The Jacksonville Jaguars' playoff hopes were all but extinguished with the 35-7 thumping by the Patriots this week. Next week's matchup against the Cleveland Browns should be more favorable.
The Jaguars own all feasible tie-breakers involving 8-8 teams because of their superior (7-5) conference record.
Still, Jacksonville needs four of the five 8-7 teams (NYJ, BAL, PIT, HOU, DEN) to lose next week in order to make the playoffs. If all five lose, the Jaguars will find themselves in the No. 5 AFC playoff spot.
8. Miami Dolphins (8-8)
The final team on our list is the Miami Dolphins. Like the Jaguars, the Dolphins let the lights on their playoff hopes dim almost to nothingness with their 27-20 loss this Sunday to the Houston Texans.
If the Dolphins make the playoffs it will be behind the Denver Broncos, so the result of Denver's game against Kansas City is of no consequence.
Along with a victory over Pittsburgh next week, the Dolphins will need the other three 8-7 teams (New York, Baltimore, and Houston) to lose, AND a tie or a loss by the Jacksonville Jaguars.
For Miami to make the playoffs would take a miracle!