NFL: AFC Playoff Scenarios and Predictions for Week 17

I just broke down the playoff scenarios for the NFC (including my predictions for what the first round matchups will look like).

Now let’s break down the playoff scenarios for the AFC based on what happens in Week 17. There is still a lot to be decided.

AFC Playoff Scenarios

Houston Texans

The NFC playoff scenarios started out with an easy one – the Cowboys-Giants winner is the #4 seed, the loser goes home – and the AFC playoff scenarios start out with an even simpler one:

The Houston Texans are the #3 seed in the AFC playoffs, regardless of what happens in Week 17.

While Houston could finished in a three-way 11-5 tie with Baltimore and Pittsburgh, here is a quick explanation for why they could not vault over either for the #2 seed, via

If the Texans, Ravens and Steelers all finish 11-5, the Steelers would be eliminated from a tiebreaker because the Ravens beat them twice and would be AFC North champions. The Ravens would win a head-to-head tiebreaker with the Texans because they beat them in Week 6.

New England Patriots

The Patriots have clinched the AFC East as well as a first round bye. In Week 17, they have home field advantage on the line.

If the Pats can beat Buffalo at home, they will be the #1 seed in the AFC. If they lose to Buffalo, the Patriots will still nab the #1 seed if Pittsburgh and Baltimore lose.

If New England loses and either or both of Baltimore/Pittsburgh win, they would have identical 12-4 records. New England loses the tie-breaker with both the Steelers and Ravens.

Baltimore Ravens

The Ravens have clinched at least a wild card spot, along with Pittsburgh. With both teams sitting at 11-4, the AFC North (and more) remains up in the air.


If Baltimore beats Cincinnati, the Ravens clinch the AFC North and a first round bye because they beat Pittsburgh twice and thus own the tie-breaker. The Ravens also clinch the AFC North if they lose to Cincy and Pittsburgh loses to Cleveland. However, if Baltimore loses to Cincy and Pittsburgh beats Cleveland, then the Ravens get the wild card.

As mentioned above, the Ravens also can clinch home field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs if they win and New England loses to Buffalo.

Pittsburgh Steelers

If Pittsburgh beats Cleveland and Baltimore loses to Cincinnati, the Steelers are AFC North champions and will host a first round playoff game. Should the Steelers lose, or if they win and Baltimore wins, the Steelers are the wild card.

If the Steelers win and both Baltimore and New England lose, the Steelers become the #1 seed in the AFC playoffs and will have home field advantage throughout as well as a first round bye.

Denver Broncos

The Broncos clinch the AFC West title and the #4 seed by beating Kansas City in Week 17. If the Raiders lose to the Chargers, then the Broncos win the AFC West regardless of if they win or lose against Kansas City.

In the unlikely even that Denver and Kansas City tie, Denver still goes to the playoffs if Oakland loses or ties.

And now let’s run down the many, many, many possibilities for what could happen with the #6 seed in the AFC:

AFC Playoff Scenarios for #6 Seed

Cincinnati Bengals

The Bengals have, theoretically, the best chance at securing the #6 seed because they have a “win and in” scenario (though it does come against Baltimore). If Cincinnati beats Baltimore, or ties, they are in as the #6 seed.

Cincinnati can still make the playoffs with a loss if one of the following scenarios play out:

  • The Jets lose or tie and Oakland loses or ties
  • The Jets lose or tie and Denver loses or ties

Oakland Raiders

If Oakland wins and Denver wins, Oakland cannot win the AFC West and host a first round playoff game. However, the Raiders could still earn the #6 seed if they win and the following happens:

  • Cincinnati loses and Tennessee loses or ties
  • Cincinnati loses and the Jets win

New York Jets

Yes, the Jets can still make the playoffs. They need a lot of help to do it though.

First, New York needs to beat Miami in Miami. That will be no easy task. If New York loses, they are out no matter what.

If they win, the Jets will make the playoffs if one of the following two scenarios play out:

  • Cincinnati loses, Tennessee loses or ties, and Oakland loses or ties
  • Cincinnati loses, Tennessee loses or ties, and Denver loses or ties

Tennessee Titans

The Titans also still have a shot at the playoffs, but a lot has to happen. Of course, they have to beat Houston. If they do, they will make the playoffs if one of the following scenarios play out:

  • Cincinnati loses and the Jets win and Oakland loses or ties
  • Cincinnati loses and the Jets win and Denver loses or ties
  • Cincinnati loses and the Jets lose or tie and Oakland wins and Denver wins

Whew, that’s a lot of help the Titans need…

AFC Playoff Predictions

With so many possibilities, what will actually happen?

Here are my predictions for the pivotal Week 17 games:

  • New England beats Buffalo
  • Miami beats New York
  • Baltimore beats Cincinnati
  • Pittsburgh beats Cleveland
  • Tennessee beats Houston
  • Denver beats Kansas City
  • San Diego beats Oakland

This would create the following first playoff matchups:

  • Byes: #1 New England (13-3), #2 Baltimore (12-4)
  • #3 Houston (10-6) v #6 Cincinnati Bengals (9-7)
  • #4 Denver (9-7) v #5 Pittsburgh (12-4)

What do you think will happen? Comment below.

About Jerod Morris

I love words. I write for Copyblogger and founded MSF, The Assembly Call, & Primility. I practice yoga, eat well, & strive for balance. I love life. Namaste. Say hi on Twitter, Facebook, & G+.


  1. Round 1: Pittsburgh beats denver, Houston beats cinncinnati; Round 2: Pittsburgh beats New England, Baltimore beats Houston; AFC Championship: Baltimore beats Pittsburgh

    • pitt would crush baltimore in the afc championship game!!!! Baltimore loses to Cinci this week anyway. then to denver in first round/ Gauranteed

  2. Call me crazy but I actually think Tennessee will sneak into the playoffs. I see them beating a banged up Texans team. Cincy losing to Baltimore, Jets over Miami and then either the Raiders or the Broncos losing to help the Titans get in.

  3. I don't like your predictions and hope they are all wrong.
    The Raiders

  4. I see Pitt giving Tebow a good spanking. I Baltimore beating the the Texans. I abulances and stretchers all lined up on the sidelines for the Steeler vs Ravens AFC Championship game. Gonna be brutal!!! PITT wins relying on big game expoerience and a refreshed James harrison stuffing Ray Rice.

  5. I see Pitt giving Tebow a good spanking. I see Baltimore beating the the Texans. I see abulances and stretchers all lined up on the sidelines for the Steeler vs Ravens AFC Championship game. Gonna be brutal!!! PITT wins relying on big game experience and a refreshed James harrison stuffing Ray Rice.

    Revised and spelled checked

  6. I see it like this…Ravens loosing to Cinci by 3,…Steelers beating Cleveland by 14, Tennessee barely getting by Houston, The Chiefs beating Denver, I see Patriots beating the Bills by 10, and the Raiders beating San Diego..
    1st seed New England
    2nd Seed Pittsburgh
    3rd Seed Houston
    4th Seed Raiders
    5th Seed Baltimore
    6th Seed Bengals

    1st Seed Green Bay
    2nd Seed San Francisco
    3rd Seed New Orleans
    4th Seed New York Giants
    5th Seed Detroit
    6th Seed Atlanta

    Playoffs AFC
    Bengals beat Houston
    Baltimore beats Raiders
    Bengals Loose to New England
    Baltimore Losses to Pittsburgh

    Pittsburgh Beats New England

    Atlanta Looses to New Orleans
    New York Giants Losses to Detroit
    San Francisco Looses to New Orleans
    Detroit Losses to Green Bay
    New Orleans Looses to Green Bay

    Superbowl Pittsburgh & Green Bay…Score Pittsburgh 24 Green Bay 17

  7. dontfwithtexas says:

    I see Houston beating the ravens and playing patriots for afc championship.

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