NFL playoff picture: Bengals in, Steelers out and the Texans on top

Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

The AFC postseason lineup is coming into view, and it looks like the Texans and Broncos have the top spots. What's the rest of the order look like?

There are two playoff spots up for grabs in the AFC. RIght now, the Indianapolis Colts and Cincinnati Bengals have a foot in the door for those two spots. It would take some unusual circumstances for another team to catch the Colts at this point, so, in effect, there is one spot in the AFC to be had.

The Houston Texans, at 12-2, inched closer to a first-round bye with a win over the Colts this week. Right behind Houston is Denver, off a decisive win over the Baltimore Ravens this week.

Keep your eyes on the AFC North, where the Bengals and Steelers are in a dogfight for that final spot. The Ravens, despite the loss, clinched a playoff berth by virtue of the Steelers losing in Dallas.

Here's what the AFC playoff seeding looks like right now:

1. Houston Texans, (12-2, AFC South)
2. Denver Broncos, (11-3, AFC West)
3. New England Patriots, (10-4, AFC East)
4. Baltimore Ravens, (9-5, AFC North)
5. Indianapolis Colts, (9-5, Wild Card)
6. Cincinnati Bengals, (8-6, Wild Card)

Starting at the top, the Broncos would need for Houston to lose both of its last two games. The Texans beat the Broncos earlier this season, giving Houston a tiebreaker. Houston plays the Vikings and the Colts over the next two week. Denver plays Cleveland and Cincinnati.

New England's loss Sunday night makes it harder to grab one of those byes. Though games against the Jaguars and Dolphins to finish the season won't hurt anything. It would be a minor upset if either Denver or New England didn't win out the season.

Jim Caldwell's offense looked exactly like Cam Cameron's offense in Baltimore. Ray Rice didn't get the ball much, and Joe Flacco left fans frustrated. The Ravens have a playoff spot, but games against the Giants and Bengals could mean a Wild Card rather than a division title.

Cincinnati and Pittsburgh could still claim the AFC North. Both teams face off in the Steel City next week, and a Pittsburgh win would put the Steelers into the playoff seeding. Baltimore has an advantage with a 4-1 record in the division, while the Bengals have won just once within the AFC North.

Wild Card Weekend Matchups

Bengals vs. Patriots - The Bengals just don't impress me. It's a better team than most, and the record isn't a fluke. That said, the Bengals looked shaky against the Eagles this week. It would be tough for Cincinnati to stop the Patriots. The winner plays in Houston.

Colts vs. Ravens - We'll see what happens with the Ravens, a team that might get pushed further down the order. The Colts are a lot like the Bengals. Cincinnati can be one of those teams capable of surprising, but lacking consistency. Denver awaits the winner of this one.

Outside Looking In

Pittsburgh Steelers, 7-7 - All Pittsburgh has to do is beat the Bengals next week to get back into the playoff order and have a good chance of keeping it with a season finale against the Browns. Barring a Big Ben mutiny against offensive coordinator Todd Haley, the Steelers probably have an edge here.

New York Jets, 6-7 - The complete meltdown we've all been waiting for just doesn't look like it's in the cards this year. Rex Ryan probably isn't getting enough credit for holding that team together. But the playoffs? No.

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