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Assessing the AFC playoff race following Week 13

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With four weeks remaining in the 2016 regular season, eleven AFC teams are in playoff contention, although a few appear to be long shots. Due to the relatively small separation between teams in the conference, the NFL tiebreaker rules will probably play a role in determining playoff seeding and which teams earn wild card berths. In the event of a tie between teams from different divisions at the conclusion of the regular season, the first two tiebreakers are head-to-head results and conference win-loss-tie records.

The current AFC standings and remaining schedules are as follows:

1. Oakland Raiders (10-2 overall, 7-1 in conference)

  • at Kansas City
  • at San Diego
  • vs. Indianapolis
  • at Denver

2. New England Patriots (10-2 overall, 7-1 in conference)

  • vs. Baltimore
  • at Denver
  • vs New York Jets
  • at Miami

3. Baltimore Ravens (7-5 overall, 7-2 in conference)

  • at New England
  • vs Philadelphia
  • at Pittsburgh
  • at Cincinnati

4. Houston Texans (6-6 overall, 4-4 in conference)

  • at Indianapolis
  • vs Jacksonville
  • vs Cincinnati
  • at Tennessee

5. Kansas City Chiefs (9-3 overall, 6-2 in conference)

  • vs Oakland
  • vs Tennessee
  • vs Denver
  • at San Diego

6. Denver Broncos (8-4 overall, 5-3 in conference)

  • at Tennessee
  • vs New England
  • at Kansas City
  • vs Oakland

7. Miami Dolphins (7-5 overall, 5-4 in conference)

  • vs Arizona
  • at New York Jets
  • at Buffalo
  • vs New England

8. Pittsburgh Steelers (7-5 overall, 5-3 in conference)

  • at Buffalo
  • at Cincinnati
  • vs Baltimore
  • vs Cleveland

9. Tennessee Titans (6-6 overall, 3-5 in conference)

  • vs Denver
  • at Kansas City
  • at Jacksonville
  • vs Houston

10. Buffalo Bills (6-6 overall, 3-5 in conference)

  • vs Pittsburgh
  • vs Cleveland
  • vs Miami
  • at New York Jets

11. Indianapolis Colts (5-6 overall, 3-5 in conference )***before MNF in Week 13

  • at New York Jets
  • vs Houston
  • at Minnesota
  • at Oakland
  • vs Jacksonville

The Patriots have all but locked up their eighth consecutive division crown. The Dolphins and Bills will need to catch fire to earn wild card bids considering the tiebreakers already in place. The AFC South is almost guaranteed to field a single playoff team, likely the #4 seed. The Week 14 Houston - Indianapolis matchup looms large.

The AFC West has been far and away the best division in the AFC this season. Their strength may actually work against them in their quest to place three teams in the playoffs. With several intra-divisional games remaining on the schedule, the Raiders, Cheifs and Broncos will combine for at least three more losses or ties. This could open the door for a wild card team from another division, Denver is the most vulnerable. San Diego is a quality team that could play the spoiler role as well.

With seven conference wins and only one head-to-head loss against probable playoff teams, the Ravens are well position to capitalize on the AFC West scheduling and secure the final wild card berth if they fail to win the division. Still, it is more probable at this point that the Week 16 rivalry game between the Ravens and Steelers will serve as an elimination game, with the winner earning the #3 seed and the loser out of the playoffs. AFC North fans would not have it any other way.

What are your predictions for AFC playoff seeding?