Oct 7, 2012; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (12) shakes hands with Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning (18) following the game at Gillette Stadium. The Patriots defeated the Broncos 31-21. Mandatory Credit: Stew Milne-USA TODAY Sports
Only three weeks remain in the 2013 regular season, and the AFC Playoff picture is far from set. The top three teams, Cincinnati, New England, and Denver, are all still battling for the top two seeds, with the most likely scenarios involving the Pats overtaking the Broncos for the top spot, or the Bengals snatching the second seed from New England.
As of right now, here are the current playoff standings, in the AFC.
1. Denver (11-2)
2. New England (10-3)
3. Cincinnati (9-4)
4. Indianapolis (8-5)
5. Kansas City (10-3)
6. Baltimore (7-6)
Denver’s final three games are against the Chargers, Texans, and the Raiders. I doubt that Peyton Manning will allow his bunch to fall against any of those teams, but if an upset were to happen, the most likely case would be this Thursday Night against San Diego. I guarantee that Patriots fans across the country will make sure to tune into that game, given how important home-field advantage can be.
The Patriots don’t have such an easy final three games, as sandwiched in between divisional games against Miami and Buffalo, is a trip to Baltimore, to take on the defending Super Bowl champions. If New England can can get out of there with a win, then finishing the season at 13-3 will nearly be complete, which would guarantee them a first round bye, at minimum.
Cincinnati owns the tiebreaker against the Pats, because of an ugly 13-6 win back in week five. If Tom Brady and company slip up over the final three game stretch, and the Bengals win out, then they would be able to enjoy that first round bye, which is extremely important to every team in the league. However the Bengals final three games aren’t a walk in the park, as they will have to travel to Pittsburgh this weekend, and then close out the season at home versus Baltimore.
If the Bengals lose two of their final three games, and the Colts win out, then Indianapolis would get the three seed, with Cincinnati falling down to the fourth slot. They would then have to take on Kansas City, who will end up being one of the best five seeds in league history. So not only is the battle for those top two slots important, but obtaining that three seed is vital for the Bengals and Colts. Whoever gets the three seed will have the luxury of hosting either the Ravens or Dolphins (most likely), while the four seed has to try and get a win against the extremely talented Kansas City Chiefs.
It will be a fun final stretch for the AFC, and hopefully these last three games set up a great playoff bracket, where the best teams get to battle it out, for a chance to go to the Super Bowl.