We begin the AFC Playoff Picture with a post-mortem on the N.Y. Jets, who lost in such spectacular fashion to the Titans. Five turnovers for the Jets, including four Mark Sanchez turnovers. Where the Jets go from here after two straight missed playoffs, who knows. Decisions will be made about Mike Tannenbaum, Rex Ryan and Sanchez (owed $8.5 million next season). The fact is, their final two games are utterly meaningless to the remainder of the AFC season. Here's how things stack up after Week 15.
Houston (12-2)- Clinched AFC South. Last two games (Min, @Ind)
After getting obliterated by the Pats, the Texans bounced back with a win over the Colts to lock up the AFC South title. They are now a win away from home-field advantage (a Bronco or Patriot loss clinches a bye). I don't know who's going to have confidence in them in the postseason, but having home games is a good start. Still, it's not an easy schedule, so it's not time to
Denver (11-3)- Clinched AFC West. Last two games (Clev, KC)
The biggest winner from Sunday's games as they no longer have to worry about the Ravens and with their schedule, they should end up with a bye because of the Pats loss. What's also good is because they play sub .500 teams and the Texans play playoff contenders, they still have an outside shot at home-field throughout the playoffs.
New England (10-4)- Clinched AFC East. Last two games (@Jac, Mia)
The Patriots became the unquestioned AFC frontrunner after their dominant game over the Texans. If they are still considered to be a frontrunner, they likely will make the Super Bowl from the Wild Card round in that event. What's also potentially shaping up is a Divisional Round matchup of Tom Brady vs Peyton Manning in Denver (their first playoff game against one another since the 2006 AFC Championship game should it occur). A game like that would make the AFC Championship game anti-climatic.
Baltimore (9-5)- Clinched playoff berth. Last two games (NYG, @Cin)
Congrats to the Ravens for having the greatest backdoor clinching of a playoff spot since the 1986 Jets lost their last 5 games after starting 10-1. They have now lost 3 straight (would be 4 if the Chargers would have tackled Ray Rice) and continue to play quality teams to finish the year out. Would be fitting if the Ravens lose this week, only to see the Bengals lose to the Steelers and Baltimore gets to backdoor into a division title.
Wild Card Teams
Indianapolis (9-5)- Last two games (@KC, Hou)
Tough loss for the Colts, but having the Jets lose puts them all but in the playoffs. Only thing keeping the Colts from clinching is the potential of three teams tied at 9-7 and the tiebreaker coming down to strength of victory (which would have to be used because all the common opponents records would be 3-2). Of course, all the Colts need to do is beat the Chiefs and they avoid any of that.
Cincinnati (8-6)- Last two games (@Pit, Bal)
Momentarily, the Bengals are in the sixth spot. Unlike the Vikings in the NFC, the Bengals control their destiny. Win on Sunday over Pittsburgh and they are playoff-bound again. Lose, and they become Browns fans. Cincinnati still has AFC North hopes, but the Ravens must lose to the Giants in order for their game with Baltimore in Week 17 be for a division and a home game.
Pittsburgh (7-7)- Last two games (Cin, Clev)
They lost to Dallas, but their game with the Bengals made this one expendable. It only means they have to finish the sweep of Cincinnati in order to make the playoffs. If they lose, it's over. It also means they will need to beat the Browns in Week 17 instead of clinching next week.
Miami (6-8)- Last two games (Buf, @NE)
I didn't want to bring back Miami, but they win a tiebreaker if there's a three way tie at 8-8, which happens if the Steelers win Sunday and both teams lose in Week 17. More than likely, the Dolphins won't beat the Patriots and miss the playoffs again. Still, it's not impossible for them to make it at this point and I guess that's good enough for this list of teams.