A couple days ago I looked at the NFC tie-breaker scenarios, which looks like a mess if you try to read too much into it since it all depends on the Lions and/or Falcons losing their last two games. But if the NFC looks like a mess, then the AFC looks like a full blown natural disaster. In order to make more sense f it I will show the AFC picture a little differently and show the scenario for each team to get into the playoffs.
So here is what we know so far. The Patriots have won the East, the Ravens and Steelers have both clinched spots, and the Texans have won the South. NE has the inside track for the #1 seed with a 1 game lead and home games against the Dolphins and Bills to close the season.
Baltimore has the inside track for the AFC North crown, thanks to their two victories over PIT, and can clinch it with a win and a PIT loss this weekend, by winning their last two games, or by PIT losing their last two games. They also have the head-to-head tie-breaker with HOU, and would beat NE in a tie-breaker based on a better Strength of Victory.
Pittsburgh still has an outside chance at the #1 seed, but would need to finish 1 game ahead of both BAL, for the division, and HOU, thanks to a head-to-head loss. They have the head-to-head tie-breaker against NE.
Houston could also get the #1 seed, but they would need NE to lose to MIA to give them the tie-breaker for best record against common opponents, and would need PIT to win the North.
The AFC west is the most wide open division in football right now. All four teams are still in contention, but only the Broncos control their own fate. The scenarios for each team in the West are:
Broncos: clinch by winning their final two games OR a win AND losses by OAK and SD.
Raiders: clinch with two wins AND a DEN loss to KC
Chargers: clinch with two wins AND two losses by DEN
Chiefs: clinch with two wins AND two DEN losses AND an OAK win over SD
For the Wild Card, there are currently six teams alive for one spot. The following is the scenario for each record the winner could have.
NYJ: clinch with two victories due to edge in strength of victory over CIN
CIN: clinch with two wins AND NYJ loss
NYJ: clinch with win over NYG AND loss by CIN to BAL AND losses by TEN, OAK, and SD OR win over MIA AND loss by CIN, TEN, OAK, and SD
CIN: clinch with win over ARI AND two losses by NYJ, AND losses by OAK, and SD OR win over BAL AND loss by NYJ to MIA AND losses by OAK, and SD
TEN: clinch with two wins AND NYJ loss to MIA AND CIN loss to BAL AND OAK and SD loss
SD: clinch with two wins AND NYJ loss to MIA AND CIN loss to BAL AND TEN loss
OAK: clinch with two wins AND NYJ loss to MIA AND CIN loss to BAL AND TEN loss
The Broncos could also win the Wild Card if they lose to the Chiefs and the Raiders win their last two games, but would need TEN to lose. They hold head-to-head tie-breakers with both CIN and NYJ.
Any three or four way tie for the wild card would likely come down to strength of victory, which all three AFC West teams lead by a considerable margin. The Jets lead the three teams outside of the West and appear to have the easiest path for the final spot, but as we saw last weekend, anything is possible. For that reason, I will wait until next week to discuss any scenarios involving an 8-8 team.
Once again, let me know if you see any mistakes I made.