As such, let's do a run down of the Wild Card contenders.
First off, our remaining schedule
vs. Kansas City
"home game" vs. NYG
Outside of the game against the Giants, the remaining teams are at or below .500, very navigable. Going to Philly could be tough depending on the health of Vick, but the other 4 should be wins or we don't deserve the playoffs.
More after the jump
Houston (7-3), Baltimore (7-3), New England (7-3), and Oakland (6-4) currently lead their divisions. It's safe to say that the Pats have won the division. Their remaining schedule is Philly, Indy, Washington, Denver, Miami, and Buffalo. IMO, I think they take out Philly next week and eventually run away with the #1 seed. I also think it's safe to say Houston will win the AFC South. They are 2 games up on Tennessee, 3-0 in the division, and play their weak division rivals again. So I won't include either of them here. Pats and Houston currently hold the top 2 seeds in the AFC.
The Jets are currently 5th in the Wild Card race, behind Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Denver, and Tennessee. The AFC North race is going to be interesting because it appears at least one of those 3 will get a wild card spot. They currently have both. Their remaining schedules are...
Baltimore (7-3): vs. SF, @ CLE, vs. Indy, @ SD, vs. CLE, @ CIN
Pittsburgh (7-3): @ KC, vs. CIN, vs. CLE, @ SF, vs. STL, @ CLE
Cincinnati (6-4): vs. CLE, @ PIT, vs. HOU, @ STL, vs. ARI, vs. BAL
Baltimore currently holds the tie-breaker on Pitt by sweeping them and hold the edge on Cincy with a H2H win. Baltimore has 2 remaining teams with winning record in SF and Cincy, 2 games against a mediocre Cleveland team, a horrid Indy team, and a Chargers team no one can figure out. Pitt's schedule is basically the same: 2 games vs. Cleveland, the Niners, and another tilt against Cincy but they get the Rams and Chiefs instead of the Chargers and Colts. I think that Pitt ends slightly easier because the Chiefs are starting Palko right now and get Cincy at home. The Bengals have a couple of tough teams to end with: going to Pitt, another date with Baltimore, and a tough Texans team sandwiched between a couple of softies in Arizona and STL. One potential caveat here: If Baltimore has their seed locked up in week 17, they may shut it down and play backups against the Bengals (which hurts us).
At 6-4, the Raiders are not guaranteed their spot at the top of the AFC West. They could be players in this wild card race if Denver or San Diego rises above them. Also directly above us (at this point) are Denver and Tennessee, both 5-5. All their schedules are as follows:
Oakland (6-4): vs. CHI, @ MIA, @ GB, vs. DET, @ KC, vs. SD
Denver (5-5): @ SD, @ MIN, vs. CHI, vs. NE, @ BUF, vs. KC
Tennessee (5-5): vs. TB, @ BUF, vs. NO, @ Indy, vs. JAX
In my opinion, Denver's schedule is simply too tough and they'll fall back. Going to Qualcomm, then the Metrodome, then back to back games against Chicago and New England followed by a trip to Buffalo IMO will bury them. Tennessee's schedule is no cakewalk either, a solid (if inconsistent) Tampa squad, going to Buffalo, then the Saints, and a week 17 game against the Texans. Much like Baltimore/Cincy game week 17, this one could hurt us if Houston has their seed locked up already and play the B team. Oakland's schedule is also hard, the 3 good NFC North teams plus 2 divisional games. If they lose steam, it's possible Denver or SD could rise up and take their place. We don't want SD to win the division because Oakland and Denver both have the tie break on us. I do think that Oakland will win the division, Denver will fall back, and SD will be there but not as an overly looming figure since we have the tie break.
We have one other 5-5 team, good ole Buffalo, followed by 3 teams that are 4-6 (San Diego, Kansas City, Cleveland). Their remaining schedules are:
Buffalo (5-5): @ NYJ, vs. TEN, @ SD, vs. MIA, vs. DEN, @ NE
San Diego (4-6): vs. DEN, @ JAX, vs. BUF, vs. BAL, @ DET, @ OAK
Cleveland (4-6): @ CIN, vs. BAL, @ PIT, @ ARI, @ BAL, vs. PIT
Kansas City (4-6): vs. PIT, @ CHI, @ NYJ, vs. GB, vs. OAK, @ DEN
Buffalo's going to be a big player in terms of determining this race. They play 4 teams in this big wild card gaggle (us, Titans, Chargers, Broncos). Ideally, we will take out the Bills on Sunday (giving us the tie break), they beat the Titans the next week, lose to SD the following week, and then take out the Broncos. Unfortunately, if they are still around in Week 17 and the Pats have home field won, they could take it down and put in the backups. Chargers down the stretch have a couple of tough ones against the Ravens and going to Detroit and Oakland to end the year. Cleveland could be a MAJOR player in that AFC North race: 5 of their final 6 are in the division (ouch!). If they can run the gauntlet (highly unlikely), then they can knock one of those teams down further into the race and open up both those spots. If they serve as patsies for the rest of the AFC North, the AFC North is going to guarantee one if not both of those wild card spots. Luckily the Bengals already played them, since they would be the ones we're probably gunning for, but if they manage to sweep Pittsburgh and take care of the Bengals it knocks both of those teams back into the pack. I highly doubt it because Cleveland stinks, but who knows? Kansas City's practically guaranteed not to be in the race, their final 6 are BRUTAL and I wouldn't be surprised if the 4 wins they have are how many they have when the year is done. Pitt, Chicago, Jets, Packers, Oakland, at Denver? Schedule makers must hate KC.
We currently hold victories over the Chargers and Buffalo, yet lost to Baltimore, Oakland, and Denver. The hope is that they win their divisions and take out the biggest threats to our spot. Maybe this is something that can be examined weekly as we move closer to the end of the year and things get more clear.