NFL Playoff Picture 2011: After Patriots, Ravens And Steelers, AFC Is A Mystery

The AFC playoff picture has several more teams involved than their NFC counterparts. We can count 10 teams that still have (somewhat) realistic playoff hopes following Week 12. 

If the playoffs ended today, the AFC seeds would be: 1.) Texans 2.) Patriots 3.) Ravens 4.) Raiders 5.) Steelers 6. Bengals.

Unlike the NFC, the AFC has a lot of teams that are still alive. The Jets, Titans and Broncos are a game out of the wildcard race while the Bills are two games out. The Patriots, Ravens and Steelers all seem very likely to make the playoffs. The Texans have a two-game lead and are currently slotted for the No. 1 seed but their top two quarterbacks are now injured putting their season in question. The AFC West continues to be a mystery with Tim Tebow and the Broncos leading a comeback  and sitting just one game behind the first place Raiders. 

Here's a look at where we stand with the AFC playoff picture after Week 12:

AFC East: Patriots (8-3), Jets (6-5), Bills (5-6), Dolphins (3-8).

The Patriots are starting to look like the best team in the AFC. The offense has put up over 30 points in three straight games and the defense, while giving up a lot of yards, seems to make a lot of big plays at key times. They're on pace to win the division and it'd be hard to see anyone catching them. The Jets and Bills played on Sunday and New York got a big boost with the victory, moving them one game ahead of the Bills. The Jets are right in the middle of the wildcard race, a game behind the Bengals. They've been here before and I think they can finish strong down the stretch.

Prediction: Patriots win the division, Jets get the wildcard.

***

AFC North: Ravens (8-3), Steelers (8-3), Bengals (7-4), Browns (4-7).

As of now, the AFC North is on pace to send three teams to the playoffs -- the division winner and both wildcards. The Ravens or Steelers will likely win the division and the other should pick up the wildcard. The Bengals are the, uh, wildcard in all of this -- they have just a one-game lead over the Jets and Titans in the wildcard race. Cincy has three games coming up against division leaders (Steelers, Ravens and Texans) and two very winnable ones (Rams and Cardinals). While Cincy is right there, I'm not sure nine wins would do it.

Prediction: Ravens win the division, Steelers get the wildcard.

***

AFC South: Texans (8-3), Titans (6-5), Jaguars (3-8), Colts (0-11).

Houston is your No. 1 seed in the AFC at the moment but their path to the playoffs are far from secure. The Texans are down to their third quarterback, rookie T.J. Yates, after injuries to both Matt Schaub and Matt Leinart. They might need two more wins out of him -- can he do it? The Titans are tied with the Jets a game behind the Bengals in the wildcard race right now. 

Prediction: Texans win the division, no wildcard.

***

AFC West: Raiders (7-4), Broncos (6-5), Chargers (4-7), Chiefs (4-7).

The two teams who have won the last five AFC West titles, Chargers and Chiefs, now sit at the bottom of the division with all playoff hopes essentially gone. The Raiders are on track to win the division but one intriguing angle is Tim Tebow and the resurgence of the Broncos. Count me among the doubters that the Broncos can keep this pace up so, for now, we'll take the Raiders winning the division but this will be a fluid division down the stretch.

Prediction: Raiders win the division, no wildcard.

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