David Butler II/USA Today Sports

AFC playoff picture: Things getting interesting with just 3 weeks to go

Ryan Hannable
December 12, 2017 - 2:55 pm

Following Week 14 action it appears all the seeds in the AFC are still up for grabs and a lot can change over the next three weeks.

The entire NFL will have its eyes on New England and Pittsburgh this Sunday, as the winner likely will be the No. 1 seed in the AFC. It also appears the AFC South and AFC West will come down to the final weekend of the season and also will have implications on the wild card.

Here's a look at the AFC playoff picture following Week 14.

1. Steelers (11-2)

Remaining schedule: vs. Patriots (10-3), at Texans (4-10), vs. Browns (0-13)

2. Patriots (10-3)

Remaining schedule: at Steelers (11-2), vs. Bills (7-6), vs. Jets (5-8)

3. Jaguars (9-4)

Remaining schedule: vs. Texans (4-9), at 49ers (3-10), at Titans (9-4)

4. Chiefs (7-6)

Remaining schedule: vs. Chargers (7-6), vs. Dolphins (6-7), at Broncos (4-9)

5. Titans (8-5)

Remaining schedule: at 49ers (3-11), vs. Rams (9-4), vs. Jaguars (9-4)

6. Bills (7-6)

Remaining schedule: vs. Dolphins (6-7), at Patriots (10-3), at Dolphins (6-7)

Still in the running

Ravens (7-6)

Remaining schedule: at Browns (0-13), vs. Colts (3-10), vs. Bengals (5-8)

Chargers (7-6)

Remaining schedule: at Chiefs (7-6), at Jets (5-8), vs. Raiders (6-7)

*Note, the Dolphins and Raiders are still techinally not out of it at 6-7, but would need to win out and receive a lot of help.

ANALYSIS

The winner of Sunday’s Patriots-Steelers game will almost certainly be the No. 1 seed in the AFC. If the Steelers win, they would eliminate the Patriots from having any shot and then would have to lose out and the Jaguars would have to win out for Jacksonville to get it — very unlikely to happen. If the Patriots win Sunday, and win in Week 16 and 17, the No. 1 seed is theirs. While there are other scenarios, given remaining schedules the winner of Sunday’s game can pretty much declare themselves the winners of the AFC in the regular season.

Things do get interesting for the Patriots if they were to lose. If the Patriots, Jaguars and Steelers all finish 12-4, Jacksonville would be the No.1 seed, Pittsburgh No. 2 and New England No. 3. Also, if the Patriots and Jaguars finished tied at 12-4, Jacksonville would hold the tiebreaker and be the No. 2 seed. So if the Patriots fall to the Steelers and the Jaguars win out, New England would be the No. 3 seed and be forced to play on wild card weekend.

The Jaguars are in the driver's seat to win the AFC South, as if they win their final three games they'd force the Titans into in all likelihood being the No. 5 seed. If the Titans somehow win the division, then the Jaguars then would be the No. 5 seed. The two teams meet in the final week of the season with Jacksonville currently being a game up.

The No. 4 seed will be the winner of the AFC West with right now it being the Chiefs over the Chargers. The two teams will meet this week, which will go a long way in deciding who wins that division.

As for the No. 6 seed, the Ravens, Chargers and Bills are all in the running with the Bills currently having the edge because of tiebreakers. Buffalo plays New England and Miami twice down the stretch, so compared to the other two teams, it has the hardest schedule. Baltimore may have the edge here based on playing the Browns, Colts and Bengals down the stretch. As of now, it would appear if things go as planned, Baltimore would be the No. 6 seed.

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