Snapshot of AFC playoff picture: Patriots, Bengals fail to take advantage of Broncos’ misstep, but still stay locked into position
|12.16.13 at 6:00 am ET|
The week isn’t quite over — the Ravens play an important game Monday night against the Lions that has far-reaching implications for almost everyone in the AFC playoff picture — but after a crazy Sunday, here’s the latest postseason update.
1. Broncos (11-3). Clinched playoff spot. Remaining opponents: at Texans (2-12), at Raiders (4-10)’¨
The Broncos did their best to hand the top spot to the Patriots last Thursday, but New England couldn’t take advantage of the opportunity Sunday afternoon, failing to come through against the Dolphins. Stranger things have happened, but it would be a stretch to think that Denver would lose one of their final two games. Despite their loss last Thursday, unless something truly unbelievable happens, it appears the Broncos have secured the AFC West title, the No. 1 seed, and home field throughout the postseason.
2. Patriots (10-4). Remaining opponents: at Ravens (7-6), vs. Bills (5-9)’¨
It was bad news/good news for the Patriots on Sunday: the bad news was they couldn’t take advantage of the Broncos misstep and close out the Dolphins, so they stayed a step behind Denver. The good news? The Bengals, who were a game behind New England but owned the tiebreaker, couldn’t take advantage — they turned in a stinker of their own on the road against the Steelers. That allowed the Patriots to stay in control of the second seed. New England doesn’t have any margin for error over the final two weeks — if they do slip and Cincy does take advantage to force a tie for the No. 2 seed, the Bengals do own the tiebreaker. If you’re a Patriots fan, on Monday night you’ll be rooting for the Lions, as a loss or a tie for the Ravens clinches a playoff spot for New England.
3. Bengals (9-5). Remaining opponents: vs. Vikings (4-9-1), vs. Ravens (7-6)
Who knows? The Bengals not only failed to take advantage of the Patriots loss, with their ugly loss to the Steelers Sunday night, they left open the possibility — however remote — that the Ravens could still win the AFC North title. It will be interesting to see if this is just a one-game pothole for a talented young Cincy team, or the start of some greater calamity that’s waiting over the course of the final two games. Regardless, if Baltimore wins Monday and beats New England next week, that regular-season finale against the Bengals in Baltimore could be really interesting.
4. Colts (9-5). Clinched AFC South. Remaining opponents: at Chiefs (11-3), vs. Jaguars (4-10)’¨
Unless something really nutty happens, these guys appeared to be pretty much locked in to the No. 4 playoff spot. They absolutely undressed the Texans on Sunday, taking home a 25-3 win.
5. Chiefs (11-3). Clinched playoff spot. Remaining opponents: vs. Colts (9-5), at Chargers (7-7)’¨
Kansas City was able to clinch a playoff spot by crushing the Raiders, and will have a chance to win their first playoff game since 1993 now that its officially in the postseason. There’s still an outside shot at winning the AFC West, but it’s remote, and would involve the Broncos losing at least one of their last two and the Chiefs winning their final two games.
6. Dolphins (8-6). Remaining opponents: at Bills (5-9), vs. Jets (6-8)
Part of a great morass of teams sitting within two games of each other with two to play. Miami kept its playoff hopes alive with its third straight win, a 24-20 victory over over the Patriots on Sunday, but if the Ravens (7-6) find a way on the road Monday night in Detroit, they can reclaim the No. 6 seed by way of the tiebreaker. (According to strength of schedule, the Ravens have the roughest road over the final three games, with three games against teams that are all above .500 — the Lions, Patriots and Bengals.) The Chargers (7-7), Steelers (6-8) and Jets (6-8) all sit right behind them, waiting for a screwup and/or a miracle.
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