How Week 16 Shapes AFC Playoff Picture


It's the time of year when everybody is looking at playoff scenarios.

The NFL released the official breakdown Tuesday afternoon:

The Ravens' situation is fairly clear. Win and they are the AFC North champions who are guaranteed at least one home playoff game. A tie, plus a Cincinnati loss or tie in Pittsburgh would also give Baltimore the division.

A fourth straight Ravens loss would mean they would head to Cincinnati in Week 17 with the AFC North up in the air.

But there are other factors at play that could affect Baltimore's seeding and potential opponents.

First, Denver is in position to lock up the No. 2 seed and a first-round bye. The Broncos can accomplish that with a win or tie, plus a New England loss or tie. The Ravens have already been eliminated from contention for the No. 2 seed because the Broncos own the head-to-head tiebreaker and the Patriots would win a three-way tie.

In order for the Ravens to earn a first-round bye – something they were in position to do before their three-game losing skid – they would need to leap-frog the Broncos and Patriots. Both teams have softer schedules in the final two weeks than the Ravens.

The Texans (12-2) are zeroing in on home-field advantage throughout the playoffs, which would mean the road to the Super Bowl in the AFC may run through Houston. The Texans are 6-1 at home this year, including a 43-13 win over the Ravens at Reliant Stadium in Week 7.

Houston needs only to beat the Minnesota Vikings (8-6) at home. Houston would also clinch with a New England (10-4) loss or tie in Jacksonville (2-12) or a Denver (11-3) loss versus Cleveland (5-9).

Indianapolis (9-5) clinches a playoff berth with a win or tie at Kansas City (2-12), making the Colts a potential first-round opponent to the Ravens.

Cincinnati (8-6) can clinch a playoff berth by beating the Steelers in Pittsburgh. If the Bengals win and the Ravens lose to the Giants, then Week 17's game in Cincinnati will decide who has a home playoff game and who's on the road as the wild-card team.

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