By Maximillian C. Burgos | Staff Writer
The AFC picture is almost clear cut. As the last week of football slowly approaches, a few things can still happen, possibly changing which teams go to the AFC Championship game.
1. New England Patriots (12-3)
The Patriots are defiantly not playing in the first round, but a home-field advantage throughout the playoffs is not yet set in stone. If the Patriots loss on Sunday against the New York Jets and the Pittsburgh Steelers win their game against the winless Cleveland Browns, the Steelers will have home field advantage throughout the playoffs.
The chances of the Patriots dropping a game against the Jets is slim to none. According to ESPN’s matchup predictor, the Jets only have 7.3-percent chance to win. Traveling into Foxborough and pulling off a win is not easy for any team, especially a division rival sitting at 5-10 on the season.
Chances are in favor of the Patriots sitting at the first seed and playing at home throughout the playoffs.
2. Pittsburgh Steelers (12-3)
The Steelers will have a first round bye no matter what, even if they do loss to the Browns this coming Sunday. The real question is will the Jets beat the Patriots?
Crazier things have happened, but if the Jets by some miracle win their game and the Steelers win too, the Steelers move forward as the first seed into that playoffs, giving them home-field advantage.
The Steelers will most likely continue as the second seed and play the second-lowest ranked seed coming out of the wild-card game. The Steelers are poised for a deep playoff run and their offense was firing on all cylinders against the Texans.
3. Jacksonville Jaguars (10-5)
How would have guessed that the Jaguars would be sitting at the third seed? They even had hope of being the first or second seed before last week. The Jaguars 3-13 last year. Coming into this year, no one thought they would have a winning record, never mind a playoff seed.
That being said, with their loss to the San Francisco 49ers, the Jaguars have shown that they might not be primed to go all the way. If they win the wild-card game against the sixth seed, they might not go any further than that because the Patriots are a better team than the 49ers and have been to the playoffs almost every year since 2000. The team is full of veterans as well.
The Jaguars are third, which is unexpected, but don’t seen to really be a threat to go any where.
4. Kansas City Chiefs (9-6)
The Chiefs have taken some bad losses this year, but have seemed to right the ship with the last three games they have played, winning all three.
The Chiefs will play the fifth seeded team in the playoffs. If the season ended today, the Chiefs would play the Ravens. The game would definitely be a toss up.
If the Chiefs can recapture some of that fire from the beginning of the season, they could make a deep playoff run. The defense will need to play tough and the offense would need to put up solid numbers.
That would mean Alex Smith would need to play better, if he plays at all in the in playoffs. Who knows what the Chiefs will decide after this coming Sunday and Patrick Mahomes’ first ever start. If he is electric and proves to be a play-maker, Smith might be out of a job, again.
First Wild-Card Spot: Baltimore Ravens (9-6)
The Ravens have been playing their best football recently. A few weeks ago they almost beat the Steelers in a game that was lost by only one point. If the season ended today and the Ravens win their wild-card game, they will be facing the Steelers in the second round of the playoffs, a rematch that could be really interesting to watch.
Whether the Ravens go far or not is completely up to them. First, they have to win against the Bengals and hope that the Tennessee Titans and Buffalo Bills both lose their matchups. If either team losses, the Ravens clinch a playoff spot.
Second Wild-Card Spot: Tennessee Titans (8-7)
The Titans are in the sixth spot for the playoffs right now, but they have not been playing their best football in the last three games. They lost to the Arizona Cardinals, the 49ers, and the L.A. Rams.
The Cardinals did not even score a touchdown on the Titans and still managed to win the game. The 49ers are a better team with Jimmy Garoppola behind center, but the for the Titans to show that are worthy of the playoffs, they needed to win that game. The Rams are a good team and did not beat the Titans by much, but the Titans need to win those close games to show that they are ready for a deep playoff run.
The Titans are sitting at sixth, but if they lose this coming Sunday the Bills could easily sneak their way into the playoffs.
In the Hunt:
L.A Chargers (8-7)
The Chargers need some help to get in. They will win the tiebreaker over the Bills since they won the matchup earlier in the year, but they will need the Titans to lose and the Ravens to win in order to get into the playoffs.
Buffalo Bills (8-7)
The Bills would be in control of their destiny if they would have won some close games earlier in the season, but if they hope to snap their streak of playoff drought, they need to beat the Miami Dolphins on Sunday. They will also need the Ravens, Chargers and Titans to lose. Their chances are slim, but again, crazier things have happened.
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