The State of the Race: AFC Playoff Picture Mostly Set

 

The field is set in the AFC. Denver wins the West. Houston wins the South. Baltimore wins the North, with New England taking the East. Indianapolis and Cincinnati are the two wild card teams, with some jockeying possible in week 17 to change playoff seeds.

 
1) Houston goes on the road to face Indianapolis needing a win to secure home field advantage. On paper this could be a tough matchup. However, this game is meaningless to the Colts; they are locked into their #5 seed regardless of what happens in week 17. That should mean Houston wins easily, nailing down home field advantage in the process.

2) Denver needs a Houston loss and a win over the Chiefs next Sunday to get home field advantage throughout the playoffs. A win over Kansas City will be enough to lock in the first round bye and the #2 seed.

 
3) New England needs a win over Miami and losses by Denver and Houston to get the number one seed on the AFC side. A win next Sunday, combined with a loss by one of Denver and Houston, will give the Patriots the second seed in the AFC. The Patriots would be 9-10 point favorites in the first round against either the Colts or Bengals.

 
4) Baltimore can’t earn a first round bye; the best they can do is climb to the #3 seed in the AFC with a win over Cincinnati and a New England loss to Miami.

 
5) Indianapolis will be the number five seed even with a win over the Texans next week. Don’t expect much of an effort from the Colts as they prepare for the playoffs. The Colts should be about six point underdogs to Baltimore in round one.

 
6) Cincinnati is locked into the sixth AFC playoff spot with a probable first round game against the Patriots. Like the Colts, the Bengals will focus on resting key players and getting ready for the playoffs, not on winning week 17. Cincinnati will likely be around a nine point underdog if they face New England in the first round.