Breaking down AFC playoff logjam

Breaking down AFC playoff logjam
November 25, 2013, 8:15 pm
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Ravens know it's must-win here on out

(Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports)

With their 19-3 win over the Jets on Sunday, the Ravens climbed into a six-way tie for the sixth and final playoff spot in the AFC.

Ravens coach John Harbaugh on Monday said that " We haven’t given up on the division championship yet," and indeed it is still within reach. The Ravens trail the Bengals (7-4) by two games with five to play, including the season-finale at Cincinnati.

 Still, the wild card is the Ravens more likely ticket to the playoffs. Right now, Tennessee holds the No. 6 spot based on a complicated tiebreaker, but that picture will evolve weekly.

All six teams in the tie are 5-6, underscoring how mediocre the AFC has been this season. Since the current playoff system was adopted in 1990, only once has an 8-8 team earned a wild-card spot in the AFC. (Curiously, it’s happened six times in the NFC).

Will 8-8 be good enough this year? Or will one team go on a run, win four of its final five games to finish at 9-7? It seems 9-7 would certainly be good enough, so let’s examine how likely that is to happen for each team in the logjam:

TENNESSEE  (Current seeding: 6)

Remaining schedule:

at Indianapolis

at Denver

ARIZONA

at Jacksonville

HOUSTON

Can they get to 9-7?

They have trips to Indianapolis and Denver back to back in the next two weeks. With Ryan Fitzpatrick at quarterback, they would need to split those two games and then sweep their final three. They end with two of the worst teams in the AFC (Jacksonville, Houston). But they’ve already lost to the Jaguars once.

 

PITTSBURGH (7)

Remaining schedule:

at Baltimore

MIAMI

CINCINNATI

at Green Bay

CLEVELAND

Can they get to 9-7?

They have three of their final four at home. Even if they sweep those –- which would mean beating the Bengals – the Steelers would still need to win at either Baltimore or Green Bay. And the Packers are likely to have Aaron Rodgers back by the time Pittsburgh visits Lambeau Field.

[RELATED: Upon further review: Ravens clearly in playoff hunt]

BALTIMORE (8)

Remaining schedule:

PITTSBURGH

MINNESOTA

at Detroit

NEW ENGLAND

at Cincinnati

Can they get to 9-7?

Like the Steelers, the Ravens have three of the final five at home, beginning with Thursday night’s showdown. To win four of their final five, the Ravens would have to win at least one more game on the road, where the Ravens are 1-5 this season. But if Cincinnati has the division wrapped up by Week 17, that could affect how they approach that game.

 

SAN DIEGO (9)

Remaining schedule:

CINCINNATI

NEW YORK GIANTS

at Denver

OAKLAND

KANSAS CITY

Can they get to 9-7?

They have four of their final five at home, and if they win all four, they will finish no worse than 9-7. But that would mean beating the Chiefs a second time, as well as beating Cincinnati this coming weekend. Lose either of those, and they would have to win at Denver.

[MORE: 3 and Out: More Tyrod Taylor time?

NEW YORK JETS (10)

Remaining schedule:

MIAMI

OAKLAND

at Carolina

CLEVELAND

at MIAMI

Can they get to 9-7?

Not with the offense they showed at M&T Bank Stadium on Sunday. The Jets will fade from this picture unless they can figure out how to score some points. Even if they beat Oakland and Cleveland at home, they would need to either win at Carolina or sweep Miami. Can Geno Smith accomplish that?

 

MIAMI (11)

Remaining schedule:

at New York Jets

at Pittsburgh

NEW ENGLAND

at Buffalo

NEW YORK

Can they get to 9-7?

On the bright side, the Dolphins have two games against the Jets, whose offense on Sunday looked utterly incapable of winning. But they would need to beat either New England at home or the Steelers at Heinz Field, not to mention Buffalo in late December, when weather is likely to be a factor.

Analysis: If the Steelers win at M&T on Thursday night, they own a series sweep of the Ravens, and I like their chances and their momentum. Otherwise, San Diego seems to be in the driver's seat with four home games. The Ravens absolutely must win on Thursday night and still find at least one win on the road. Then again, if both Pittsburgh and the Ravens beat Cincinnati, the division title is right back in play. Hang on, it will be a wild final five weeks.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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