With just three games left in the regular season, half of the six current payoff teams are dealing with injuries at the game’s most important position. Andy Dalton’s thumb injury puts a huge dent in Cincinnati’s plans of winning the AFC, and it could cost them a first-round bye. The Bengals need that extra week of rest to get Andy Dalton back.
With the Patriots surely cruising to victory over the Titans, New England could clinch one a first round bye if the Steelers knock off the Broncos. The Pats caught a break last week when the Broncos fell to Oakland, and could get a little separation in the race heading into next week’s meeting with the Jets.
After New York’s win last night over the Cowboys, they can take a brief seat at the playoff table. But if Pittsburgh indeed knocks off the Broncos today, it’ll be the Steelers holding onto the six seed behind Kansas City.
At this point in the season, could the two best teams in the AFC be the Wild Card teams? Kansas City hasn’t lost in two months, and the Steelers have scored 30 points in five straight games. Both pose a difficult first round matchup for whomever falls to the three seed, making every game important in this race down the stretch.
And then there’s the AFC South. It’s a mess, and it deserves it’s own conversation. If the Colts beat the Texans today, they’ll be one game ahead and own the tiebreaker over Houston. If Houston wins, things are going to get messy. And don’t forget the Jaguars, who are one game back and dropped 50 points last week. On the Colts. The division leaders. To go more in-depth on this mess, click here.
The NFL’s playoff format gives the top two seeds in each conference bye weeks. The remaining teams are then matched up 3 vs. 6 and 4 vs. 5. After the first round, the bracket is re-seeded so that the top seed in each conference is matchup up with the lowest remaining seed.
For a full list of NFL tiebreaking procedures, click here.
Here’s how the playoff standings look right now:
The Division Leaders:
1. New England Patriots — 12-2 — Clinched AFC East
2. Cincinnati Bengals — 11-3
3. Denver Broncos — 10-4
4. Houston Texans — 7-7
The Wild Card Contenders:
5. Kansas City Chiefs — 9-5
6. Pittsburgh Steelers — 9-5
7. New York Jets — 9-5
– New England clinches first-round bye with win and Denver loss
– Cincinnati clinches AFC North with win and Pittsburgh tie OR Pittsburgh loss
– Cincinnati clinches playoff spot with win OR Kansas City loss
– Denver clinches AFC West with win and Kansas City loss
– Denver clinches playoff spot with win
Potential Wild Card Matchups:
Steelers at Broncos
Chiefs at Texans