Locks: New England Patriots, Pittsburgh Steelers
Both teams are virtual locks to make the post season. They are regarded as the top teams in the AFC and for good reason. The Patriots have already clinched a playoff spot and are the hottest team in football right now. Even if they completely fall apart, they will at the very least be a wild card team. Pittsburgh has basically clinched a spot in the playoffs as well. They play Carolina and Cleveland the last two weeks so the odds of them missing are slim to none.
Sitting Pretty: New York Jets, Baltimore Ravens, Jacksonville Jaguars, Kansas City Chiefs
The above teams are all in great positions to make the playoffs, but still could miss if they have a meltdown and lose out. They all control their own destiny and have no one to blame if they don’t make it. The Jets are at 9-4 and despite losing 2 in a row, they probably only need to win 1 game to make sure they get in. They have two tough games against Pittsburgh and Chicago followed by a home finale against Buffalo. They need to win 2 to all but guarantee themselves a spot in the post season. Baltimore may not catch the Pittsburgh Steelers to win the division, but they’ve played well all season and have an easy road to January with their last two games against Cincinnati and Cleveland. They aren’t locks, but are close to it. Jacksonville has two tough divisional games left in Houston and Indianapolis that will determine if they win the AFC South. It won’t be easy, but they are sitting in the drivers seat of their destiny. Kansas City is also in a similar situation as they are in control. Although San Diego is only one game back, Kansas City’s last three games are against teams with losing records so they control their destiny. If they win out, it won’t matter what San Diego does.
In The Hunt: Miami Dolphins, Indianapolis Colts, San Diego Chargers
All three teams are still very much in the hunt and have some form of control on their destiny. They might need a bit of help, but if they win out they have a solid chance to get in.At 7-6 Miami is trying to play catchup to land the last wild card spot. They need the Jets or Ravens to hit a losing skid and win out. Their toughest game is week 17 against New England although they could catch a break if the Patriots rest their starters. For the Colts, the task is simple: win and their in. They have a tough test against Jacksonville next week which should determine who wins the AFC South. However, they have Peyton Manning. Last up is the San Diego Chargers who always seem to catch fire the second half of the season.They’re 4-1 the past 5 games and have their last games against some of the worst teams in the NFL. They should win out and just need a bit of help to make the final wild card spot or even win the division.
Barely Alive: Oakland Raiders
Oakland is just about out of the race, but still has a pulse. Here’s the rundown of what needs to happen for Da Raidas to make the playoffs for the first time in what seems like forever. First off, they need to win out the rest of their games against the Broncos, Colts, and Chiefs. They also need all the teams in the hunt to lose at least 1 game.Lastly, they need either the Jets or Ravens to lose out and go 9-7. This isn’t including any tirebreaker situations which could have them out as well. The odds of the Raiders making the playoffs are incredibly slim, but they still have a small outside chance
Eliminated: Denver Broncos, Buffalo Bills, Houston Texans, Cincinnati Bengals, Tennessee Titans, Cleveland Browns
Playoffs? Playoffs?! These teams are probably looking to the 2011 NFL Draft and starting to scout top 10 talents that they can land. Denver’s head coach has already been fired and they’ve slipped from starting 2-2 to now 3-10. Their best bet is to see what they have in their young players like Tim Tebow as Cole mentioned earlier. Buffalo wasn’t expected to do much this season so it’s no real surprise that they’re on this list. It seems like they’re always rebuilding. As for the Texans, they went from first place in the AFC South to dead last after going 1-6 the past 7 games. They always seem to be mediocre at best and it’s time for a coaching change. The poor Bengals seem to lose in the last minute of the game and have dropped 10 straight. Head coach Marvin Lewis hasn’t been fired . . . yet. Tennessee has also fallen apart and it looks like head coach Jeff Fisher has lost control of his players. Lastly, the Cleveland Browns better known as the most inconsistent teams in the NFL. They go from beating the New England Patriots to losing to the Buffalo Bills. It’s head coach Eric Mangini’s first season so this year was seen as a rebuilding year to begin with.
AFC East: New England Patriots
AFC North: Pittsburgh Steelers
AFC South: Indianapolis Colts
AFC West: Kansas City Chiefs
Wild Card: Baltimore Ravens
Wild Card: San Diego Chargers