AFC Playoff Race Heading Into Week 14

Peyton Manning, Zane Beadles, Orlando FranklinWith just a quarter of the season remaining for each team in the NFL, we are really getting down to crunch time. The Seattle Seahawks are the only team in the league to have clinched a playoff berth, while three teams (all in the NFC) the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Atlanta Falcons and Washington Redskins have been eliminated from playoff contention. This means that every single team in the AFC still has a chance, no matter how small it might be for teams like the Houston Texans and Jacksonville Jaguars.

Let’s take a look at the AFC Playoff picture heading into Week 14.

 

AFC

1. Denver Broncos: 10-2

Denver can wrap up a playoff spot with a win over the Tennessee Titans or a loss or tie the Baltimore Ravens or Miami Dolphins. It currently has a one-game lead over the Kansas City Chiefs and has won both of their meetings within the AFC West this season. Denver can wrap up the division title as early as Week 15 with two more wins and one Chiefs’ loss. It is one game ahead of the New England Patriots, but fell to Tom Brady and Co. earlier in the season.

 

2. New England Patriots: 9-3

New England can clinch the division title with a win this week against the Cleveland Browns and Miami Dolphins loss. It can also clinch a playoff berth with a win and a Baltimore Ravens loss.  It’s currently the No. 2 seed and would get a first-round by if the playoffs started today. Both the Cincinnati Bengals and Indianapolis Colts are one game behind New England for that all-important spot. New England is tied with Indianapolis at 6-2 in the conference, while Cincinnati boasts a 6-3 record in the AFC. Despite being one game behind the Denver Broncos for the No. 1 overall seed in the AFC, New England holds the head-to-head tiebreaker there. 

 

3. Indianapolis Colts: 8-4

Despite inconsistent play, Indianapolis still has a real shot at earning a first-round bye in the postseason. It boasts the same conference record as the Patriots and is just one game behind the eventual AFC East champions. The first task at hand for Andrew Luck and Co, however, will be to wrap up what has been a weak AFC South. Indianapolis boasts a three-game lead over the Tennessee Titans in the division and can wrap it up this week with either a win or a Titans’ loss. Indianapolis currently holds the tie-breaker over the Cincinnati Bengals based on a better conference record: Remaining Strength of Schedule. That being said, the two play this week in what promises to be a game with huge playoff implications, therefore eliminating the aforementioned tie-breaker.

4. Cincinnati Bengals: 8-4

To say that this Sundays matchup with the Bengals has huge playoff ramifications for Cincinnati would be a massive understatement. It currently sits just one game back of New England for the No. 2 seed and last wildcard playoff bye, but is also just two games ahead of the suddenly surging Baltimore Ravens in the AFC North. Cincinnati is also .5 game back of the Patriots in the tiebreaker for the No. 2 seed with a 6-3 conference record.  

 

5. Kansas City Chiefs: 9-3

It’s pretty clear cut here. Kansas City needs two Denver Broncos losses and must go undefeated in order to grab the AFC West title. Considering that Denver is 22-2 in its last 24 regular season games, that’s unlikely to happen. If the Broncos hold serve in the division, Kansas City will end the season with the No. 5 seed in the AFC and would open on the road against the division winner with the worst regular season record, likely the loser of the Bengals/Colts game this weekend. The Chiefs can wrap up a playoff spot with a win and a loss or tie by either Baltimore or Miami.

 

6. Baltimore Ravens: 6-6

Baltimore currently holds the tiebreaker for the final AFC wildcard spot because of its win against the Miami Dolphins earlier in the season. It’s also just two games out of first place in the AFC North and will take on Cincinnati at home in Week 17.

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6. Miami Dolphins: 6-6

As I mentioned above, Miami will have to finish with a better record than Baltimore in order to grab the final wildcard spot in the AFC. With one of the easiest remaining schedules of those teams who are “in the hunt,” it’s a strong likelihood that the inconsistent Dolphins can earn that allusive playoff berth. Their biggest remaining game comes against the New England Patriots in Week 15. A Patriots’ win or Dolphins’ loss will eliminate Joe Philbin’s squad from contention in the AFC East.

 

8. Tennessee Titans: 5-7

Tennessee has already defeated the other three 5-7 teams in the AFC playoff hunt. This means that it holds a tiebreaker over Pittsburgh, New York and San Diego. Unfortunately for the Titans, they remain one game behind Baltimore and Miami for that final playoff spot. In addition, it possesses a worst overall conference record than those teams. This means that Tennessee would likely have to finish ahead of both Baltimore and Miami as it relates to overall record if its going to earn a postseason berth. A Colts’ win or Titans’ loss this week eliminates them from contention in the AFC South.

 

8. Pittsburgh Steelers: 5-7

Not only does Pittsburgh have to finish with a better record than Tennessee, it will need to catch Miami and Baltimore in the standings in order to grab the No. 6 playoff spot. Pittsburgh is also 1.5 games behind both of those teams with a 4-5 conference record, which is utilized for the wildcard tiebreaker. A combination of either a Pittsburgh loss of Bengals’ win would eliminate the Steelers from contention in the AFC North this weekend.

 

8. San Diego Chargers: 5-7

Barring some crazy end to the season, San Diego is pretty much done here. First, it is already eliminated from contention in the AFC West, which shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. San Diego has also lost to both the Tennessee Titans and Miami Dolphins in head-to-head meetings this season. It will not only have to jump both teams in the standings (a two-game swing), San Diego doesn’t possess as good of a conference record as the other two teams ahead of it in the standings, Baltimore and Pittsburgh.

 

8. New York Jets: 5-7

Technically, New York is still in contention. It’s just one game out of the final playoff spot, but would have to have a whole heck of a lot bounce its way in order to make a surprise trip to the postseason. New York’s 2-7 conference record pretty much eliminates it from winning any sort of tiebreaker against the teams ahead of it in the standings that it has not had a head-to-head meeting against this season. The Jets have also lost to Tennessee, Baltimore, Pittsburgh and Miami this season.

 

Outside Lookin In

12. Oakland Raiders: 4-8

12. Cleveland Browns: 4-8

13. Buffalo Bills: 4-8

 

Week 14 Games with Playoff Ramifications

Bengals_Colts_Footbal_Reyn1_t607Indianapolis Colts at Cincinnati Bengals: Whoever wins this game will be the odds-on favorites to wrap up the No. 3 seed in the AFC and will also remain in the mix with the New England Patriots for a first-round playoff bye. Indianapolis can also win the AFC South if it defeats Cincinnati.

Tennessee Titans at Denver Broncos: This is rather simple. Denver can wrap up a spot with a win or a loss by either Baltimore or Tennessee on Sunday. Tennessee, on the other hand, remains firmly in the AFC playoff race, just one game behind those two aforementioned teams.

Cleveland Browns at New England Patriots: New England can clinch the AFC East with a win and a Dolphins’ loss. It can also wrap up a playoff berth by winning against Cleveland and a Ravens’ loss. Cleveland is mathematically still in the playoff race, but there are too many factors in play for us to take them seriously as a playoff contender.

Kansas City Chiefs at Washington Redskins: Kansas City can clinch a playoff berth with a win and either a loss or tie from Baltimore or Miami.

 

If the Playoffs Started Today

1. Denver Broncos

2. New England Patriots

3. Indianapolis Colts

4. Cincinnati Bengals

5. Kansas City Chiefs

6. Baltimore Ravens

 

Predictions

Wildcard Round

Indianapolis Colts over Baltimore Ravens

Kansas City Chiefs over Cincinnati Bengals

 

Divisional Round

Denver Broncos over Kansas City Chiefs

New England Patriots over Indianapolis Colts

 

AFC Championship Game

New England Patriots over Denver Broncos