LOS ANGELES — The first 16 weeks of the 2019 NFL regular season are in the history books, Week 17 is upon us. This is the week where football jargon not used for 358 days is said over and over. We learn who controls their own destiny and who needs help to make the playoffs. Some years it seems almost everybody has a shot at the playoffs. This year a few teams have possibilities. But today, we’re specifically focusing on the 2019-2020 AFC Playoff permutations and combinations.
Six of the eight AFC Week 17 games have playoff implications.
In the AFC, all four divisions and the top Wildcard have already been clinched. Virtually nothing is up for grabs. The top seed is already settled. Only two teams have a shot at the other first-round bye. Only the sixth seed remains undecided, and three teams are alive for that final spot.
Here is the AFC playoff picture.
1.) Baltimore Ravens (13-2):
The Ravens have clinched the AFC North and are the top seed. They have locked up home field throughout the playoffs.
2.) New England Patriots (12-3):
The Patriots have clinched the AFC East and right now are the two seed, but they have not locked it up. If the Patriots win next week they remain the two seed with a first-round bye. Home field throughout the playoffs is out of reach. If the Patriots lose, they can remain the two seed if Kansas City also loses. Should Kansas City win and the Patriots lose, the Patriots fall to the three seed and would have to host a playoff game on Wildcard weekend.
3.) Kansas City Chiefs (11-4):
The Chiefs have clinched the AFC West and are currently the three seed. They would have to host a playoff game on Wildcard weekend. If the Chiefs win next week and New England loses, the Chiefs move up to the two seed and a first round bye. Home field throughout the playoffs is out of reach. Should the Chiefs lose and Houston wins, the Chiefs fall to the four seed. They cannot fall lower than that.
4.) Houston Texans (10-5):
The Texans have clinched the AFC South and are currently the four seed. They cannot fall lower than that. If they win next week and Kansas City loses, the Texans move up to the three seed. A first round bye is out of reach, so no matter what, the Texans are hosting a playoff game on Wildcard weekend.
5.) Buffalo Bills (10-5) —
The Bills are locked into the five seed as the top Wildcard. They will travel on the road during the Wildcard round either to Houston or Kansas City, whichever team is the four seed.
6.) Tennessee Titans (8-7):
They control their own AFC destiny. If the Titans win their regular season finale, they are in as the six seed. Should they lose and Pittsburgh wins, the Titans are out. If Tennessee and Pittsburgh both lose, the Titans would still have the six seed if either Indianapolis or Oakland lose. If Tennessee and Pittsburgh both lose but Indianapolis and Oakland both win, Tennessee is out.
7.) Pittsburgh Steelers (8-7):
They are on the outside looking in as far as their AFC playoff possibilities are concerned. Their only scenario is winning next week and having Tennessee lose. That would vault the Steelers into the six seed. If the Steelers lose, they are out.
8.) Oakland Raiders (7-8):
They need a miracle. If they lose, they are out of the year-end AFC title donnybrook. If Tennessee or Pittsburgh wins, the Raider are out. The Raiders need four things to happen. If they win and Tennessee and Pittsburgh both lose, all three teams would be 8-8. The Raiders would still be out because they lose the three-way tie-breaker. However, if Indianapolis also wins, all four teams would be 8-8. The Raiders would then win the four-way tie-breaker and be the six seed.
Here are the AFC games with playoff implications:
Miami Dolphins (4-11) at New England Patriots (12-3)
Los Angeles Chargers (5-10) at Kansas City Chiefs (11-4)
Tennessee Titans (8-7) at Houston Texans (10-5)
Pittsburgh Steelers (8-7) at Baltimore Ravens (13-2)
Indianapolis Colts (7-8) at Jacksonville Jaguars (5-10)
Oakland Raiders (7-8) at Denver Broncos (6-9)
1.) Ravens 14-2
2.) Patriots 13-3
3.) Chiefs 12-4
4.) Texans 11-5
5.) Bills 11-5
6.) Raiders 8-8
Out — Steelers 8-8 and Titans 8-8.
* These AFC predictions are based on the assumption that teams will play their starts in Week 17. If Baltimore and Houston rest their starters, that changes the entire calculus. While it is very tempting to rest starters, the desire to knock out a hated division opponent is very strong. If Baltimore rests their starters, Pittsburgh could vault into the six seed over the Raiders. If Houston rests their starters, Tennessee will vault over Pittsburgh and the Raiders to claim the six seed.
Predictions of additional interest:
Wildcard Round: 6.) Raiders at 3.) Chiefs, 5.) Bills at 4.) Texans
The Patriots and Ravens have a bye week.
Divisional Round: 3.) Chiefs at 2.) Patriots, 5.) Bills at 1.) Ravens
AFC Title Game: 2.) New England Patriots at 1.) Baltimore Ravens
It takes little expertise to pick the favorite.
Lamar Jackson is only in his second year, but the rest of the Ravens have the experience. They know how to win playoff games. They know how to beat up New England in New England. This time they would have them at home. It is always a gamble to bet against New England, but Baltimore is the one team that gives them fits. The Ravens will shock nobody and win the Lamar Hunt AFC Championship Trophy to reach the Super Bowl.
— Headline image: AFC Championship Game logo. Copyright protected. Fair use in this article, which previews the playoff possibilities leading up to the AFC Championship. Use of the logo here does not imply endorsement of the organization by Communities Digital News (CDN), nor vice versa. Image accessed via Wikipedia article on topic.