The AFC playoff picture s all set. Six teams have all clinched a spot in the postseason, with all four division winners decided and the two Wild Cards having been handed out. So what's left to be determined in Week 17? Plenty.
Right now, the Houston Texans still hold the top spot, but a loss to the Vikings this week leaves Houston with a 12-3 record. The Broncos also have a 12-3 record, and the Patriots are right behind, at 11-4. It sets up an important game in Indianapolis next week.
The Texans hold an advantage over the Broncos thanks to a Week 3 win in Denver. If the two teams finish with the same record, Houston gets the edge. Should the Texans lose to the Colts, all Denver has to do is beat the Chiefs at home.
Unfortunately for New England, a Broncos' loss is unlikely. If the Broncos were to lose and New England beat the Dolphins at home, it would give the Patriots a first-round bye.
Here's how the seeding looks right now in the AFC:
1. Houston Texans (12-3, AFC South)
2. Denver Broncos (12-3, AFC West)
3. New England Patriots (11-4, AFC East)
4. Baltimore Ravens (10-5, AFC North)
5. Indianapolis Colts (10-5, Wild Card)
6. Cincinnati Bengals (9-6, Wild Card)
The Colts and Bengals could swap places in the seeding, depending on next week's outcome. A Colts loss and a Bengals win would send the tiebreaking procedure all the way down to common opponents. Indianapolis has a leg up thanks to a win over the Dolphins. Cincinnati lost to Miami in Week 5.
Wild Card Weekend Matchups
Bengals vs. Patriots - Could the Bengals defensive line give Tom Brady fits a-la the New York Giants in two Super Bowls? Maybe. This Patriots team lacks the same kind of vulnerability. Then again, the Patriots got a scare from the Jaguars this week ... the Jaguars. Any given Sunday and all that, huh? My money's still on the Patriots.
Colts vs. Ravens - I think this is where the Colts' miracle ends, this season. The Ravens finally figured out that feeding Ray Rice the ball more than 10 times per game is a pretty smart move. That's a huge mismatch against the Colts.
I really think that this playoff seeding is going to hold up. Most of the Week 17 matchups for these teams are softballs. The one to watch is the Texans at Indianapolis. A Houston loss could drop them into a No. 3 seed, assuming the Broncos and the Patriots both win.
If things do shake out this way, I expect to see the Ravens and Patriots to win the Wild Card matchups. Sorry, Peter King, that means no Luck-Manning matchup. What it could mean is yet another Brady vs. Manning tilt, in the AFC Championship game. The Broncos are mechanically ripping up opponents from limb to limb. If robot Manning and an underrated defense can keep it up, they look like favorites to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl.