AFC playoff scenarios

Week 17 in the NFL is approaching quickly and while the playoff picture is beginning to take shape, there is still a lot of shuffling around that can occur. I am going to take some time here to explain all of the scenarios and then tell you which I think is the most likely.

Here is what we already know: New England has secured the number one seed and home field advantage throughout the playoffs. Even if they lose this weekend to Buffalo and Denver wins against Oakland, the Patriots have the advantage with a victory over Denver earlier this season. Outside of that, the Broncos, Steelers, Colts and Bengals have all also earned playoff berths. The only one cemented into a spot is Indianapolis who has grabbed the fourth seed.

Here is what is still undetermined, the seeding for numbers two, three, five and six, not to mention who will be the sixth seed. I will start from the top and work my way down. First, Denver can clinch a first round bye with either a win over the Raiders or a loss or tie by the Bengals against the Steelers. This is probably how things shake out. Oakland has played better recently but I don’t think the Broncos will lose to a division rival at home with so much on the line.

Cincinnati can nail down the third seed if they beat Pittsburgh on the road this Sunday. A Bengals loss would mean a drop to the fifth seed and a trip to Indianapolis rather than hosting the eventual sixth seed. I think it’s likely for Cincy to come up short based on the last match up between these two teams, where Pittsburgh ran away with it late. That being said, if the Steelers win as I think, Pittsburgh would be the third seed and play host to the eventual sixth seed. If the Black and Gold fall however, their fate is a road trip to play Andrew Luck. Neither Pittsburgh nor Cincinnati can be caught by another team and drop lower than the fifth seed.

The sixth seed is an absolute toss-up. There are four teams alive for the final spot including San Diego, Baltimore, Kansas City and Houston. For the Charges, a win means a playoff berth. It is as simple as that. If the Bolts can knock off the Chiefs in Kansas City than San Diego will be heading to either Pittsburgh or Cincinnati for a wild card match up. I think this is the most likely scenario to play out. The Chargers have been a good team down the stretch while the Chiefs have struggled to find an offense outside of Jamal Charles. The Chiefs could make it with a win over San Diego and losses by both the Ravens and Texans. Seeing as Kansas City needs the most outside help, I don’t see a playoff appearance happening.

Those Texans are still alive and have a tiebreaker over the Ravens after beating them this past weekend. But Houston needs help from Cleveland, who must defeat Baltimore for that tiebreaker to mean anything. The Texans also need to make sure not to slip up against division rival Jacksonville. Meanwhile, Ravens fans will be rooting for both their team and the Chiefs this weekend, as that is their team’s recipe for playoff life. I think the Ravens will win at home versus the Browns but I just don’t see the Chargers losing meaning Baltimore will be kept out of the playoffs for the second year running.

That’s all the possible scenarios here. So my wild card round matchups would be the Steelers hosting the Chargers and Cincinnati trekking out to Indianapolis to play. Keep an eye for first round predictions once the playoff field is set. To see the NFC playoff scenarios, click here. Hope you enjoy this final week of regular season football.


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