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With two weeks to go (plus the Week 15 Sunday night and Monday night games), six teams have already clinched their playoff berths. The Panthers, Cardinals, Packers, and Seahawks will be playing in the postseason in the NFC, and Patriots and Bengals have guaranteed spots in the AFC.
While that means half of the playoff spots have been filled, there are still a group of teams fighting for those final six postseason berths this season. In the NFC one of those spots will go to the winner of the NFC East, while the Vikings heave a nice lead over the rest of the also rans in that conference. Atlanta could potentially sneak in if they end up tied with both the Vikings and the Seahawks, but the Vikings own the head-to-head advantage.
In the AFC there is a little more drama. One of those four available spots will belong to the winner of the AFC South, which will be either the Texans or Colts. The Texans have the advantage after winning head-to-head today, but with quarterback woes nothing is guaranteed over the next two weeks.
The Chiefs, Steelers, and Jets are all in the running for a wild-card berth. At 9-5 across the board, all three teams have put themselves in a great position record wise to make the playoffs. The Bills and Raiders would be the closest wild-card competitors, and both have been mathematically eliminated with losses today.
The Jets are currently on the outside looking in, despite having identical overall records. Should all three teams finish with the same record, the Chiefs and Steelers will get the nod via tiebreakers. The Chiefs prevail in a three-way tie based on conference record, and the Steelers get in over the Jets based on record in common games.
The Jets also have arguably the toughest remaining matchup as they face the Patriots in Week 16. Kansas City gets the Browns and Raiders, while the Steelers finish with the Ravens and Browns. It would seem that the Jets would have to beat the Patriots and the Bills, and hope either the Chiefs or Pittsburgh drop a game. If the Jets lose to the Patriots, they would need to beat the Bills and hope one of those teams go winless the rest of the season.
Two of those three teams will likely find themselves playing in the first round of the playoffs, but there is still a chance all three teams make it into the tournament. If the Chiefs were to win the AFC West outright, the Jets could tie the Broncos and would own certain tiebreakers over them, depending on how exactly things break out around the league. It seems unlikely as the Broncos have been presumed AFC West champs for a while, but a tough game against the Bengals followed by a Week 17 matchup with San Diego could knock them off their perch.
What do you think? How do you the see the last two weeks of the regular season playing out in the AFC? Who are your picks for the two wild card teams? Can the Chiefs overtake the Broncos in the AFC West, leaving the Jets with another chance to get in? Weigh in below in the comments section with your thoughts!