NFL Playoff Picture: AFC West Is Decidedly Undecided With Everyone Still In Play

The AFC West is easily the most compelling division for the final weeks of the NFL season, as the division title and automatic playoff berth is open to the Denver Broncos, Oakland Raiders, San Diego Chargers and Kansas City Chiefs. In case you are keeping track, that's the entire division. Nobody has clinched a spot in the tournament and everyone has a chance to get in somehow. Insanity. Here is how the division race breaks down: 

AFC WEST W L DIV CONF Head-To-Head Wins  
Denver 8 6 3-2 6-4  Oak, SD, KC  
Oakland 7 7 2-2 5-5  Den, SD  
San Diego 7 7 2-3 6-5  Den, KC,   
Kansas City 6 8 2-2 3-7  Oak, SD

 

The best part about all the division scenarios is that there are head-to-head matchups in the final two weeks that could shake up the whole process. The Raiders have an away game against the Chiefs and a home game against the Chargers, and the Broncos will meet the Chiefs in Denver on the final week of the season. Tim Tebow and the Broncos control their own destiny, so if they win out they will punch their ticket as the division champ. Even if they only win Week 17 against the Chiefs, they still beat out the Raiders for the AFC West title.

The other teams would need the Broncos to falter along the way to have a shot at the division, and the Week 17 game between the Broncos and Chiefs is paramount to any shift at the top. The Chiefs need the Broncos and Chargers to lose in Week 16 against the Bills to even have a chance. However, if the Broncos do lose to the Bills it can get very crazy.

There is then a scenario where the Chiefs could win the division by taking the head-to-head matchup against the Broncos in the final week of the season. Meanwhile the Raiders and Chargers have split their season head-to-heads with the Broncos and if they tied atop the division it would move to division record, which is completely up in the air at this point. Almost nothing is decided right now, which is just how NFL fans should want it.

Here is the tie-breaking procedure for the division title (via NFL.com), listed in order of steps taken to break the tie:

  1. Head-to-head (best won-lost-tied percentage in games between the clubs).
  2. Best won-lost-tied percentage in games played within the division.
  3. Best won-lost-tied percentage in common games.
  4. Best won-lost-tied percentage in games played within the conference.

As for Wildcard scenarios, they can only come into play if the Broncos, Jets and Bengals all lose along the way to create space for the Chargers or Raiders to tie in the standings with a 9-7 record. The Ravens and Steelers have already conspired to take one wildcard sport off the board by earning playoff berths, so there is only one open spot up for grabs. Here is a look at the AFC playoff standings and the tie-breaker procedure. 

AFC Playoff Picture          
CONF RK AFC W L DIV CONF
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

7

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 NFL.com):

  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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