Ten down, six to go and the NFL postseason is coming into focus. The AFC playoff picture after Week 11 is controlled by the New England Patriots.
While no teams are mathematical playoff locks yet, one is already assured of not participating this season: ladies and gentlemen, your Oakland Raiders! Big round of applause for the winless Silver and Black who are officially eliminated from playoff contention for the 12th straight year.
The Patriots control their own fate in the AFC East divisional race, and also in the battle for home field advantage as they hold tiebreakers over each of the other division leaders. Only Kansas City, having beaten New England in Week 4, holds a potential tiebreaker over the surging Pats. Bill Belichick’s team closes with three consecutive division matchups: home vs. the Dolphins, away vs. the Jets, and home vs. the Bills. The matchup with Miami is one to watch, given the surprising Dolphins’ overall record and their Week 1 victory over the Patriots.
The AFC West is currently the Broncos’ domain, by virtue of their tie-breaking win over Kansas City in Week 2. The Broncos travel to Arrowhead in Week 13 with the winner of that contest gaining the divisional edge while the loser fights for Wild Card position. The Chargers sit a game behind, but after three straight losses and an uninspiring 7-point win in Oakland, San Diego’s annual late-season swoon may be upon us.
Meanwhile, the AFC South is firmly in the grasp of the Colts thanks to their perfect divisional record and strong intraconference résumé. J.J. Watt and the Texans loom in the rear view mirror but are not a serious threat to Andrew Luck and Indianapolis.
Lastly, the AFC North could be settled by Cincinnati’s 37-37 tie with Carolina in Week 6. Even after Pittsburgh earned their 7th win of the season with a 27-24 victory over Tennessee on Monday Night Football, the Bengals edge them out (.650 to .636) despite having one less win. And it’s all because of that tie, which mathematically gives Cinci 6.5 wins and 3.5 losses. Baltimore and Cleveland remain very much alive, both sitting at 6-4 and, like the Titans, holding a game in hand on the Steelers. All three teams can gain ground next Sunday with Pittsburgh idle for their bye week. However, the Ravens likely need to win the division title to reach the postseason, as their awful 3-4 intraconference record puts them at a distinct tiebreaker disadvantage relative to the leading Wild Card contenders.
Key Week 12 Matchups
The Bills must win at home against the Jets to avoid dropping below .500 on the season and closer to the abyss. Should Buffalo fail to qualify, it would mark the franchise’s 15th straight season without a playoff appearance.
Cincinnati travels to Houston for a big battle for both teams. The Bengals must stay out of the loss column to maintain their slim lead in the division, while the Texans need to keep the Ryan Mallett momentum rolling to have any chance of catching the Colts.
In the AFC Game of the Week, Miami travels to Denver to visit the reeling Broncos. The Dolphins pass rush may pose problems for the struggling Broncos’ offensive line, and Denver needs a victory with their trip to Kansas City on the horizon.
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