Posted 12/02/2009 at 04:20 PM
It is amazing what can change in a single NFL week in terms of the actual placement in the standings and in the perception of a team. Last week a lot of teams that seemingly needed to win failed to do so, but enough of those teams fighting for playoffs spots lost that the door has actually been opened for teams that may have been counted out last week. Here is a look at the AFC playoff picture which expanded last week as eight teams are within two games, seven of those teams are within one game currently in line for the final spot.
Denver was on a free fall with four straight losses and appeared to not only be out of the division race but a long shot wild card. The Broncos got a huge win last week and they now lead the AFC wild card picture and are still just a game back of the Chargers, with a much more favorable remaining schedule. The Chargers are the hottest team in the league but San Diego could be overvalued as there are few quality wins on the recent win streak and the Chargers are just 2-3 against winning teams. After Cleveland this week, the Chargers will face four difficult games to close the year, and many have been far too quick to appoint San Diego as the team to beat in the AFC.
That team of course, is still Indianapolis. As unimpressive as the Colts have been in recent games, the team is still 11-0. The Colts have clinched their division and should lock up home field advantage in short order and going 16-0 seems very possible as several serious bullets have already been dodged.
The Steelers and Ravens are both tied at 6-5 and it is nearly impossible to envision a scenario where both teams get in the playoffs as Cincinnati has nearly locked up the division title. Last week’s game was an elimination game for Baltimore, and the week 16 meeting will likely be an elimination game for both teams.
Still in wild card position is the enigmatic Jacksonville Jaguars. There is little doubt that there are many teams better than Jacksonville but even with a loss last week the Jaguars should still post a very solid record. The next three games for the Jaguars are all at home and Jacksonville closes the year at Cleveland if they need a final week win. Four teams are 5-6 and realistically still in play in the playoff chase. The most notable of those teams is the Tennessee Titans, the top seed in the AFC a year ago. After a 0-6 start the Titans are getting everything to go their way right now and if they win out, they probably will make the playoffs. That same task is available for the Texans, Dolphins, and Jets also at 5-6 but only the Titans seem to inspire that possibility as false as that notion may be. The team likely to gain some momentum in the coming weeks is the Jets as they will be favored in the next three games. Tennessee has to play the Colts this week but a win there would have that 10-6 run as a real possibility. The Dolphins and Texans will have the toughest paths as both teams have more away games and both teams must play New England as one of the home games