LOS ANGELES, December 24, 2014 — The 2014 NFL regular season is coming to a close. Only one week remains. Now is the time to analyze the playoff picture. The AFC teams are a complete mystery below the likely top two seeds. This is where we find out who controls their own destiny and who needs help.
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While tie games are possible in the NFL, with one occurring this year, they are so rare that they will discounted in explaining what happens, except in rare cases. Factoring in ties only adds confusion, so the standings going forward are assuming there will be no more tie games.
The New England Patriots at 12-3 have already clinched the AFC East and the top seed with home field throughout the playoffs.
The Denver Broncos at 11-4 have already clinched the AFC West. In week 17, they host the Oakland Raiders. A Denver win clinches them the two seed and a first round bye. Denver can lose and still get the bye if Cincinnati also loses. If Denver loses and Cincinnati wins, the Broncos fall to the three seed.
The Cincinnati Bengals at 10-4-1 have an AFC North division showdown at the 10-5 Pittsburgh Steelers.
If Pittsburgh wins, they are the three seed. They cannot get the first round bye. If Cincinnati wins, they are at worst the three seed. If Cincinnati wins and Denver loses, Cincinnati moves up to the two seed with the first round bye.
The loser of the AFC North division showdown drops to the wildcard as the five seed.
The Indianapolis Colts at 10-5 have clinched the AFC South. They are locked into the four seed.
The last wildcard six seed has four teams fighting for that one spot.
The San Diego Chargers and Baltimore Ravens are both 9-6. The Kansas City Chiefs and Houston Texans are both 8-7.
In Week 17, the Chargers are at the Chiefs. The Texans host the Jaguars. The Ravens host the Browns.
If the Chargers win, they are in. The Ravens get in if they win and the Chargers lose. The Chiefs get in if they win and the Ravens and Texans both lose. The Texans get in if they win and the Ravens and Chargers both lose.
The Chargers are a better team than the Chiefs, but the home field advantage will give the Chiefs the decisive edge. The Chiefs will win and eliminate the Chargers. However, the Ravens will handle their business at home, eliminating the Chiefs, Chargers, and Texans.
The Bengals will not go into Pittsburgh and get a win. The Bengals did defeat New England and Denver, but both of those wins were at home. On the road, they are not that good, and the Bengals already lost to Pittsburgh at home.
Wildcards: 6) Ravens at 3) Steelers, 5) Bengals at 4) Colts
Divisionals: 6) Ravens at 1) Patriots, 4) Colts at 2) Broncos
AFC Title Game: 2) Broncos at 1) Patriots
AFC Champion: Patriots.