The AFC playoff picture tightened up even more this weekend, with seven teams tied for, or within a game, of the top Wildcard position. The Miami Dolphins, who lost this past weekend to the Denver Broncos, fell to 6-5 and could now be facing an uphill battle to claim a post season berth.
AFC Playoff Picture (through Week 12):
1. New England Patriots (9-2) - AFC East division leaders
2. Denver Broncos (8-3) - AFC West division leaders
3. Cincinnati Bengals (7-3-1) - AFC North division leaders
4. Indianapolis Colts (7-4) - AFC South division leaders
5. Kansas City Chiefs (7-4) - AFC West #2
6. San Diego Chargers (7-4) - AFC West #3
AFC Playoff Contenders (through Week 12):
Baltimore Ravens (7-4)
Pittsburgh Steelers (7-4)
Cleveland Browns (7-4)
Miami Dolphins (6-5)
Buffalo Bills (6-5)
Houston Texans (5-6)
Tie Break Explanations:
Click here for an explanation of NFL tie breaker procedures.
7-4 record teams: The Colts are in position as the division leader in the AFC South, and are not tied with anyone for that position. The ties at 7-4 are between the Chiefs, Chargers, Ravens, Steelers, and Browns. The first step in multi-team tie breakers is to eliminate teams from the same division. For the fifth seed, the Chief have the head-to-head advantage on the Chargers (AFC West), while the Ravens come out ahead of the Steelers and Browns based on head-to-head percentages (AFC North). The Chiefs then win the tie break over the Ravens based on conference record (5-3 to 3-4). For the sixth seed, the Chargers are back in consideration, matched up against the Ravens, who again lose due to conference record (5-3 to 3-4). The Ravens take the seventh spot, due to the AFC West tie break. The Steelers get the eighth position due to a better record against common opponents than the Browns, who settle into ninth.
6-5 record teams: Two AFC East teams are tied at 6-5, with the Dolphins topping the Bills based on division records (2-1 to 3-2).
Tennessee Titans (2-9)
New York Jets (2-9)
Jacksonville Jaguars (1-10)
Oakland Raiders (1-10)
Tie break: The Titans move ahead of the Jets based on the seventh tie break scenario, best combined ranking among conference teams in points scored and points allowed. The Jaguars take the 15th position over the Raiders due to conference record (1-7 to 1-8).
Dolphins' upcoming opponents:
@ New York Jets (2-9), 14th in AFC, 4th in AFC East
The Dolphins need wins, and they need them quickly, in order to stay alive in the post season hunt. The AFC Wildcard appears to be headed for double-digit wins to qualify for the postseason, and Miami has to win four of their last five games to make that happen.
They visit the Jets on Monday Night Football this week, a game that, on paper, should be an easy win for a Dolphins team trending up while the Jets are trending down. Of course, this is a Dolphins-Jets game, when weird things happen, especially on a Monday night.
A win here pushes Miami to seven wins, with four games remaining, and strengthens their conference and division records in case tie breakers are needed. A loss will not eliminate them, but it will make it nearly impossible to qualify for January football.
Four key AFC Week 13 games:
Cleveland Browns at Buffalo Bills / San Diego Chargers at Baltimore Ravens / New Orleans Saints at Pittsburgh Steelers (1pm ET Sunday) - There is a theme running through these three games, which is why they get lumped together. The Dolphins need losses to start piling up against the AFC North, a division that has had the benefit of facing the AFC South and the NFC South this year. Cleveland, Baltimore, and Pittsburgh are all sitting at 7-4, a game ahead of the Dolphins right now. Add in the division leading Cincinnati Bengals at 7-3-1, and Miami faces a tough climb to get through this mess. The added complication here is that the Bills and the Chargers are also in contention for the AFC Wildcard, and Miami could use losses for them as well. Ideally, these three games feature the Ravens winning, to knock the Chargers out of the 6th seed they currently hold, given Miami plays the Ravens in Week 14 and can give them a loss there, and the Saints beating the Steelers. The Browns-Bills game result is probably best for Miami if Buffalo loses, but it does not really matter either way.
Denver Broncos at Kansas City Chiefs (8:30pm ET Sunday) - The Broncos just beat the Dolphins, giving them the heads-up tie break over Miami, as well as a two-game lead. A collapse is possible, but not likely. The Chiefs, meanwhile, also hold the heads-up tie break on Miami, but are only a game ahead of the Dolphins - though they currently hold the fifth position in the playoff standings. Assuming Denver completes the season sweep of the Chiefs, essentially putting themselves three games ahead of their division rival (two in the standings plus the head-to-head tie break), the Broncos should cruise to the division title, making the Chiefs a team looking to make the playoffs via the Wildcard. Miami needs a couple of losses from the Chiefs, and Denver can provide the first of those on Sunday Night Football.
As he does every week, Phinsider author KIH004 will bring you a full breakdown of every team to root for during Week 13 later this week.