The AFC teams are set: New England Patriots (East); Denver Broncos (West); Houston Texans (South); Baltimore Ravens (North); Indianapolis Colts (wild card); Cincinnati Bengals (wild card). Who will play whom?
Houston‘s situation is simple: win at Indianapolis and clinch homefield advantage in the AFC, and a 1st round bye. The Texans control their own destiny. Houston plays early, so we’ll know by the end of the first games whether Houston has locked up the #1 seed or whether Denver and New England are playing for it in the 4:25 time slot.
Denver could grab homefield advantage though, by beating the Chiefs (lock), and Houston losing to Indianapolis.
New England has an outside shot at homefield advantage: Beat the Dolphins at home, and have Denver and Houston lose.
There are far too many scenarios to being to explain what the likely 1st round matchups are. If I had to guess …
Indianapolis at Baltimore.
Cincinnati at New England.
I’ll take it a step further and guess the lines: Ravens -5.5, Patriots -8.5.
Four spots are locked up (Atlanta, which has homefield advantage, Green Bay, San Francisco, and Seattle).
The Vikings can still get in with tie or loss, but let’s not even go there.
San Francisco controls its own destiny: Beat the hapless Cardinals at home and win the NFC West, and host a playoff game (or perhaps a 1st round bye if the Packers lose in the same time slot).
Washington is in the best shape: Beat the Cowboys on Sunday Night Football and the Redskins are in the playoffs. They can back in with a loss … if the Bears and Vikings lose, too.
Dallas is in more dire shape: Win at Washington and the Cowboys are in the postseason. Lose? No playoffs.
The New York Giants need a minor miracle: Beat the Eagles at home (not that difficult), Cowboys lose to the Redskins (possible), Bears lose in Detroit (possible) and Minnesota loses (possible). We’ll know early whether the Giants still have a chance in the early games, and the Bears play at the same time.
Chicago, which looked great five weeks ago, needs to beat the Lions and have the Vikings lose to get into the plaoyffs.
[photo via USA Today Sports Images]
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