The State of the Race: How the AFC Playoff Battle is Shaping Up

With two weeks left in the season, the AFC playoff race doesn’t have many unanswered questions. Houston has all but locked up the #1 seed. The #2 spot, along with the all important first round bye, is Denver’s to lose. Cincinnati and Pittsburgh will play next week in a pivotal game that should likely determine the winner of the sixth and final playoff spot.

 
1. Texans (12-2): The Texans have clinched the AFC South and are one win away from clinching home field advantage throughout the playoffs. The road to the Super Bowl in the AFC is going through Houston.

 
2. Broncos (11-3): Denver moved a game ahead of New England thanks to the Patriots loss and will earn a first round bye with home wins against Cleveland and Kansas City.

 
3. Patriots (10-4): The Patriots will need to win out and hope the Broncos lose one of their final two games in order to avoid playing the first week of the playoffs. New England does hold the tie-breaker over Denver thanks to its 31-21 victory in October.

 
4. Ravens (9-5): Baltimore has clinched a playoff berth, but face two tough games to close out the season. Baltimore takes on Cincinnati in Week 17 in a game that could determine the division winner.

 
5. Colts (9-5): Indianapolis hasn’t actually locked up a wild-card spot but are in very good shape. Will face the hapless Chiefs next week; a win there will make the Colts’ Week 17 rematch with Houston meaningless for Indianapolis.

 
6. Bengals (8-6): Cincinnati has control of the final AFC wildcard slot, but Pittsburgh also controls its destiny. The Bengals play at Pittsburgh next week.

 
7. Steelers (7-7): Despite losing 4 of its last five, Pittsburgh can still sneak into the playoffs with wins against the Bengals and Browns over the next two weeks.

 
8. Jets (6-7): Amazingly, New York is still alive in the race thanks to three wins in the last four weeks. They will have to win out, however, hope the Bengals lose out and Browns beat the Steelers in week 17.