Week 17 is just one evening away. We will know by Monday morning who has made the playoffs and who has not. Three teams in the AFC have booked their place in the playoffs in the Kansas City Chiefs, Buffalo Bills and Pittsburgh Steelers.
There are four places left up for grabs in the AFC playoff picture.
Five Great Records, Someone Has To Miss Out
The AFC has proved to be the stronger division through the fact that all of the eight teams in the playoff picture would all be guaranteed postseason games in the NFC.
One of these teams is going to have to miss out, which will break the hearts of the fan base of the franchise that misses out.
The Tennessee Titans and Indianapolis Colts are fighting for the AFC South as well as a place in the playoffs. One of the two will get in through being division champions. The Colts will be eliminated from contention with defeat. Tennessee will hope for a defeat from one of the other teams fighting to make it to the postseason.
Indianapolis are the team currently missing out on the wildcard round. They will hope for losses from the Miami Dolphins, Cleveland Browns or Baltimore Ravens.
The Browns and Dolphins both play AFC teams already in the postseason. Cleveland face Pittsburgh, who have announced that they will rest Ben Roethlisberger and play quarterback Mason Rudolph.
Cleveland were struck by cases of COVID, which meant they had none of their main receivers for the loss to the New York Jets last Sunday.
They have had to close their facility again due to cases amongst the coaching staff.
This could significantly hinder Cleveland. We have seen how much they have improved with Kevin Stefanski this season, compared to Freddie Kitchens in 2019.
Miami’s Difficult Week 17 Matchup
Miami faces the toughest opponent in the Bills on the road, who want to get as high a seed as possible. They have not indicated they will rest any players.
This means that the Dolphins will have to be at their complete best and there will be no room for error.
Rookie Tua Tagovailoa was benched mid-game for the second time this season after struggling in last week’s win over the Las Vegas Raiders.
Ryan Fitzpatrick came in and saved the day. He has now been ruled out of the game due to being tested positive for COVID-19. This means that Tua will need to go out and win the game on his own. He managed to do so in wins over the New England Patriots and Arizona Cardinals.
However, he has largely been helped by an excellent defense that has meant he has not had to go out and win Miami the game, apart from the Cardinals and Patriots wins.
If Miami gets the win, they will make the playoffs regardless of what happens around them.
Baltimore and Indianapolis’ Favourable Games
The Ravens are the most in-form team of the five going into week 17.
No team will want to face them with the form of quarterback Lamar Jackson and the way their defense is playing.
They face a 4-10-1 Cincinnati Bengals, which should mean a Baltimore loss. We have seen crazy results in the NFL over the years, but it is hard to see a Bengals team without 2020 number one overall pick Joe Burrow beating the Ravens.
Indianapolis face the 1-14 Jacksonville Jaguars, which represents the easiest fixture of the five teams.
Despite this, it should be noted that Jacksonville’s only win of the season came against the Colts in week 1. Indianapolis are a far different proposition coming into week 17. Their defense has been one of the best this season and whilst Phillip Rivers has shown a decline, he has also had games where he has impressed.
The performance of Rivers will determine how well Indianapolis do. The defense of the Colts may mean it doesn’t matter how Rivers performs against Jacksonville.
Jacksonville has secured the number one overall pick, which could mean a different Jaguars team than we have seen this season.
Tennessee faces the Houston Texans, who will be a tough task despite their 4-11 record, due to the excellence of Deshaun Watson. Legendary defensive end JJ Watt could be auditioning for a new team. Along with linebacker Zach Cunningham, who has the second-most tackles in the NFL this season, this gives the Texans’ defense an edge.
Who Will Secure Playoff Action?
I think that the AFC will see more twists in week 17 than the NFC.
For me, the Ravens and Colts will ease to victory. Meanwhile, I think the Browns and Dolphins will both lose. The Titans on paper should beat the Texans, but I have a sneaky suspicion that Houston will get the win.
Should these happen, this would mean that the team that would miss out would be the Cleveland Browns, much to the despair of Browns fans who thought their long playoff drought was over.
This would leave the AFC seeding as follows.