Yesterday, we previewed the NFC playoff picture and the various implications of week 17. Now, we will take a look at the AFC which is far more complicated with seven teams still alive for the two wild card slots.
1. Indianapolis Colts 14-1 (clinched home field)
2. San Diego Chargers 12-3 (clinched first round bye)
3. New England Patriots 10-5 (clinched AFC East)
4. Cincinnati Bengals 10-5 (clinched AFC North)
5. New York Jets 8-7
6. Baltimore Ravens 8-7
7. Denver Broncos 8-7
8. Houston Texans 8-7
9. Pittsburgh Steelers 8-7
10. Miami Dolphins 7-8
11. Jacksonville Jaguars 7-8
Teams 5 through 11 are all still alive for slots 5 and 6. The Jets and Ravens hold the inside advantage on the two wild card spots. If they win Sunday, they are in no matter what.
However, we shall start with the Indianapolis Cunts. The organization decided resting starters for the playoffs, which has yet to work for this particular franchise in recent history, was far more important than going for the undefeated season. Sunday they play Buffalo which means fans will be treated to the probable MVP Peyton Manning playing one drive in order to keep his consecutive starts streak in tact. After that, he’ll freeze his nards on the sidelines of Ralph Wilson Stadium.
The San Diego “Super” Chargers are arguably the hottest team in football. They’ve won about 100 straight games (or so it seems) and Phillip Rivers has transformed into one of the elite QBs in the league. And perhaps most importantly, San Diego is 4-1 in its last 5 games against the Colts including eliminating Indy from the playoffs each of the last two seasons. They play the horrible Washington Redskins on Sunday.
The New England Patriots have won three straight games and clinched the AFC East this past Sunday. Now, they play the still-alive Houston Texans and I am betting on Belichick’s boys to not let the Texans have a free win like the Cunts would do. The Pats don’t have much to gain in this game except for keeping the integrity of the game which would be ironic given “spygate” a few seasons back.
No longer the “bungles,” Cincinnati has claimed the AFC North and is set to host a home playoff game. Their fans are hoping to avoid the ills of their last playoff game which saw star QB Carson Palmer taken out of the game on the first snap. This Sunday they play the Jets in New York. Will they pull an Indy and give Rex Ryan’s team two straight free victories?
Speaking of Rex Ryan and the J-E-T-S, the coach considered his team dead two weeks ago. Now they sit in the driver seat for a wild card spot. As previously stated, they host Cincinnati Sunday who has nothing to play for. The Jets could be a very dangerous team in the playoffs with their staunch defense. What holds them back is the often-times erratic play of rookie QB and So-Cal heart throb, Mark Sanchez.
Despite losing to division rival Pittsburgh last week, the Ravens still control their own destiny. They travel cross-country to play the Oakland Raiders which looks really good on paper except for Oakland has pulled off a few upsets already this season. With that said, if the Ravens don’t shoot themselves in the foot like they did Sunday, they should be in.
Denver is in the midst of another late season collapse. There’s numerous ways they can make the playoffs, but all the team needs to be concerned with is winning its own game first. They play division rival Kansas City who would like for nothing more than to spoil the Broncos playoff chances.
Houston looked dead a few weeks back, but thanks to an anti-Denver run, the Texans are in the middle of it going into the last week. Admittedly, they need a lot of help, but it is the NFL and anything can happen. They host New England which gives them some advantage playing at home. Andre Johnson is one of the best receivers in the league and will provide a mismatch against the weak New England secondary. They can pull the upset, but anyone who has followed this team the last few years knows that staying over the .500 hump has been a problem for the Texans.
It’s slightly amazing that a team which endured a 5 game losing streak in October and November is still alive for a playoff spot, but that is the AFC wild card race. The defending champion Pittsburgh Steelers need quite a bit of help. They’re the last of the 8-7 teams by virtue of the NFL’s tie-breaker rules. They travel to south Florida and play the clinging-to-life-support Miami Dolphins. Can they sneak in?
Speaking of Miami, Tony Sparano’s team has looked great at times this season and not so good at others. Miami really hurt any realistic chance this past Sunday with a flat first half against the Texans. They need to concentrate on winning and then praying like a death row inmate after their game is over.
Another team on life support is the 7-8 Jacksonville Jaguars. Basically, they get into the playoffs if they win and every other team ahead of them finishes with an 8-8 record. Then, the Jags own the tie-breaker over all of them by virtue of in-conference record. They also need to do a lot of praying.
Confused? It’s really not all that complicated and I tried to spare some of the excruciating circumstances that could take place. All of this should provide some great football to watch, though. You can guarantee the teams in the hunt will be playing all out for their shot at the playoffs.