The AFC’s six playoff teams have been picked, but the top three seeds will be won in Week 17.
The Baltimore Ravens are currently the fourth seed, and they could jump to the third seed with a victory and a New England Patriots loss. The Indianapolis Colts and Cincinnati Bengals are locked in as the fifth and sixth seeds, respectively.
However, the Houston Texans, Denver Broncos and New England Patriots could be shuffled six different ways in seeds one through three (and in New England's case, four). Instead of breaking down those six combinations, here’s the combo that will actually happen:
No. 1 Seed: Denver Broncos
No. 2 Seed: New England Patriots
No. 3 Seed: Houston Texans
And here’s why.
First, Denver literally couldn’t have gotten a better matchup in the season finale. Peyton Manning and company will face off against the NFL’s worst team, the Kansas City Chiefs. And the game is at Mile High, no less.
Expect the Broncos, the hottest team in the league, to add to their 10-game winning streak and be able to rest their starters by the second half.
Onto the Pats whose matchup isn’t a pushover like Denver’s, but they’ll be able to handle it. The Miami Dolphins will travel to frigid Foxborough to face Tom Brady and the NFL’s highest-scoring offense.
The Patriots have only lost one time in their last nine games. That letdown came to the San Francisco 49ers, a team just a tad more talented than the Phins. And combine New England being the superior ballclub with the fact that it’s a meaningless contest for the warm-weather-loving Dolphins, and Miami shouldn’t put up much of a fight.
But onto the Texans whose slide will continue against the Indianapolis Colts.
WNDE-AM’s Jake Query tweeted that Bruce Arians said on his radio show Monday that Indy doesn’t consider its matchup with Houston meaningless.
I asked Arians if starters will rest. His answer: "We're going in to win. We gotta keep rising".— Jake Query (@jakequery) December 24, 2012
And the only thing more capable of knocking off the Texans than the Colts’ starters are the Colts’ starters inspired.
Chuck Pagano is back.
And after the Minnesota Vikings exposed Houston by the score of 23-6 on Sunday, you better believe there’s plenty of tape of the Texans’ weaknesses that Pagano and his staff will exploit.
It isn’t wise to bet against Pagano right now.
David Daniels is a featured columnist at Bleacher Report and a syndicated writer.