AFC Playoff picture focuses on Miami this weekend

Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

The AFC Playoff Picture changed last night when the Denver Broncos gave up their stranglehold on the number one seed by losing to the San Diego Chargers, who jumped into the Wildcard hunt with the victory. Now, all eyes turn to the New England Patriots at Miami Dolphins contest this Sunday.

On Wednesday, the New England Patriots at Miami Dolphins game this Sunday was a game to watch as the Patriots work to clinch the AFC East and the Dolphins try to work their way into the postseason as the last Wildcard.  This morning, the game is no longer a game to watch - it's the game to watch.  During last night's Thursday Night Football contest, the San Diego Chargers upset the Denver Broncos and made the game in South Florida much more important for the AFC Playoff picture.

With the loss last night, the Broncos opened the door to the top seed for the Patriots.  New England now controls their own destiny, and can move into the top spot, and claim the ever important home-field-advantage, simply by keeping pace with the Broncos.  A win in Miami this weekend will move New England into the one seed, and move the Broncos down to the second seed.  Denver should be rooting for a Miami win over New England.

On the other end of the playoff picture, the Chargers will now be rooting for Miami to lose, bringing the Dolphins back down to 7-7 on the season, and tying them with San Diego.  Miami would still be ahead of the Chargers in the standings, thanks to winning the head-to-head meeting between the two clubs, but it would bolster San Diego in the chase with two games remaining.

After the Dolphins and Patriots game, the focus will then swing to the Baltimore Ravens at Detroit Lions contest on Monday Night Football.  The Ravens currently hold the sixth spot in the standings, but would fall out of it with a loss.  Baltimore beat the Dolphins already this season, giving them the head-to-head tie-break, but in a three-way tie with the Chargers, the head-to-head match ups will not be in play, because the Chargers and Ravens don't play this year.  In a three way tie, the Dolphins will move into the sixth seed, with the Ravens in the seventh spot and the Chargers in the eighth, all using the AFC winning-percentage tie-breaking rules.

Fourteen weeks into the season, plus one game into Week 15, and the AFC playoffs are completely in flux.  The key to trying to figure it out for Week 15 comes down to the Dolphins hosting the Patriots.  Will New England be able to take advantage of the Broncos' loss?  Can Miami put the pressure on the Ravens and keep the door closed to the Chargers?

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