NFL Playoff Picture: AFC Wildcard Could Get Messy In Final Two Weeks

The Baltimore Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers both clinched playoff spots in Week 15, and since they are each from the AFC North we know one Wildcard spot will go to the team that fails to take the division crown. As for the other AFC Wildcard spot, it is a very tight race.

The New York Jets currently have a very tenuous hold on the final playoff spot. The Jets are tied with the Cincinnati Bengals for overall record, but would take the playoff spot by virtue of having a better record against common opponents (3-2 vs. 2-2). Therefore, the Jets control their own playoff destiny: If they win their final two games (vs. NYG, at MIA) they are in, but if they falter there are several teams ready to take their place.

The Bengals are first in line, but need a better record than the Jets and have a very tough set of games to end the season (vs. ARI, at BAL). The Tennessee Titans are next in line, by virtue of having a better record against common opponents (3-1 vs. 3-2) than the Oakland Raiders. Oakland is currently listed above the San Diego Chargers due to a head-to-head win, but the two teams meet again in Week 17 and a lot can change based on the outcome. Here's a look at the tight race for the final spot.

AFC Playoff Picture          
1 * New England 11 3 3-1 8-2
2 * Pittsburgh 10 3 3-2 8-3
3 * Houston 10 4 4-0 8-2
4 Denver 8 6 3-2 6-4
5 * Baltimore 10 4 4-0 7-3
6 NY Jets 8 6 3-2 6-5

Outside Looking In


Cincinnati 8 6 2-3 6-5
8 Tennessee 7 7 1-3 5-5
9 Oakland 7 7 2-2 5-5
10 San Diego 7 7 2-3 6-5


If there is a tie between two teams for a Wildcard berth, here is the tie-breaker procedure (via

  1. Head-to-head, if applicable.
  2. Best won-lost-tied percentage in games played within the conference.
  3. Best won-lost-tied percentage in common games, minimum of four.
  4. Strength of victory.
  5. Strength of schedule.

If there is a tie between three or more teams for a Wildcard spot, it is the same process as above except head-to-head and division record are used to eliminate teams within the same division before moving on to the listed tie-breakers.  

For more on the 2011 NFL playoffs, visit the SB Nation NFL Playoff Race Stream.

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