AFC Playoff picture:
1. Houston Texans (12-2) *clinched AFC South
2. Denver Broncos (11-3) *clinched AFC West
3. New England Patriots (10-4) *clinched AFC East
4. Baltimore Ravens (9-5) *clinched playoff berth
5. Indianapolis Colts (9-5)
6. Cincinnati Bengals (8-6)
7. Pittsburgh Steelers (7-7)
8. New York Jets (6-7)
9. Miami Dolphins (6-8)
The New York Jets are eliminated with a loss
The Miami Dolphins are eliminated with a loss OR a Bengals win
The Houston Texans will clinch home field advantage throughout the playoffs with a win OR a Denver loss + New England loss. The Texans can also clinch a first round bye with a Patriots loss.
The Denver Broncos can clinch a first round bye with a win + New England loss.
The Baltimore Ravens clinch the AFC North with a win.
The Cincinnati Bengals can clinch a playoff berth with a win + New York Jets loss.
The Indianapolis Colts can clinch a playoff berth with a win.
Once again, things broke fairly well for the Jets this week. Pittsburgh lost a huge game to Dallas and now host the Bengals in what is almost a must-win for the Steelers. The Colts dropped to the Houston Texans and looked vulnerable against a solid team. On the unfortunate side, the Bengals defeat of the Philadelphia Eagles has put the Jets in a pure elimination scenario: any loss by the Jets, and they are officially out. Also, the Patriots loss on SNF means that the Texans are in a power position: A win puts them in the #1 seed after this week. Ravens locked up a spot, so one Wildcard will be out of play if the Ravens do not win the AFC North.
Here are the scenarios for the Jets to get in. All scenarios presume that the Jets win out because, hey, the Jets have to.
Jets: @Titans, vs. Chargers, @ Bills
Bengals: @ Steelers, vs. Ravens
Colts: @ Chiefs, vs. Texans
Steelers: vs. Bengals, vs. Browns
Scenario 1: Colts lose out... yay, we're in!
The easiest and most straight forward scenario is that the Colts lose to the Chiefs and Texans. If this happens, no matter what happens with the Steelers and Bengals (ties or whatever else), the Jets are IN. The reason is that the Jets hold the tie breaker over the Colts by head to head win... and if the Jets and Colts tie with either the Steelers or Bengals, the Jets will have a superior conference record to the other 2. Hence, T-T-T-T-T-TIE BREAKER!!! </Killer Instinct reference>.
The biggest issue is that, well, the Colts have to lose out. The Chiefs are coming off of a shut out loss to the almost equally terrible Oakland Raiders. At 2-12, the Chiefs right now are in the hunt for probably the least valuable #1 pick since the 2005 draft, where there is no generational-type talent on the board. The game is in Arrowhead, so there's that I guess. That game isn't the only issue, as now the Texans can lock up the #1 seed in Week 16 win a win over Minnesota, meaning that they will have no incentive to play the Colts tough in Week 17. So... well, let's hope.
Sub-scenario 1: The Steelers beat the Bengals.
If the Colts lose out, Steelers beat the Bengals, and the Ravens win a game OR the Steelers lose to the Browns, then the Jets will not only make the playoffs but will in fact lock up the #5 seed. At the 5 seed, the Jets can have 2 possible opponents: The Patriots or the Ravens. Frankly, the Ravens are good but they are nothing to fear.
Scenario 2: If the Colts do win a game, the Bengals and Steelers MUST go 1-1 or worse for the Jets to get in.
Also rather straight forward. The Bengals and Steelers must both go 1-1 for the Jets to get in. If the Steelers defeat the Bengals and the Browns, then regardless of what happens, they are in. They will either tie the Bengals at 9-7 or outright beat them, and by sweeping the Bengals they would own the tie breaker. The Steelers winning those 2 and the Ravens losing out would give the Steelers the AFC North, the Ravens would win the tie break over the Bengals by division record, and the Ravens would win the tie break over us by conference record. Else, the Steelers going 9-7 and the Ravens winning the North would give the Steelers the tie break over the Bengals by sweep and then over us by head to head win. The Bengals winning out would put them at 10-6. However, if the Bengals and Steelers both go 1-1, no matter how they do it, the Jets would be IN. The Steelers would be 8-8 and they would own a conference record tie breaker over the Bengals.
On the bright side, they play each other next week, meaning one of them will have a loss. On the other hand, the winning team will have destiny in it's own hands with one game to play.
So, week 16 rooting guide:
Chiefs over Colts: Obvious, since we need the Colts to lose out. So go Chiefs.
Vikings over Texans: We do not want the Texans to lock up that #1 seed so they have incentive to beat the Colts next week. Plus, it would be awesome to see Adrian "Wolverine" Peterson break the rushing record. So go Vikings.
Broncos over Browns: If the Vikings do defeat the Texans, then we need the Broncos to keep pace so the Texans have something to fight for. Plus Peyton is awesome, even if he's spurned becoming a Jet twice now. So go Broncos.
Patriots over Jaguars: Puke worthy as it may be, even if the Vikings win, and the Broncos suffer a let down to the Browns, then the Pats are the only thing standing between the Texans and a #1 seed. So we would need them to win. Hopefully, the Broncos win and we will be able to revel in a laugh if the Pats lose this game. Even though that has like a 0.000005% chance of happening. So, uh, in a very limited circumstance go Pats.
Giants over Ravens: Again, it sucks, but if the Ravens lose this game then they will have something to play for in week 17 regardless of the Bengals/Steelers result. The Ravens cannot get a first round bye, so it's possible that with the AFC North locked up they may throttle down against the Bengals, as the difference between the 3 and 4 seed may be seen as negligible. If they still have to fight for the division and a home playoff game, they should go hard against the Bengals. So, yuck, go Giants.
Bengals over Steelers: This one is a matter of opinion, as neither outcome is particularly good. That said, I believe the Bengals have a higher probability of losing to the Ravens than the Steelers do of losing to the Browns in Pittsburgh, granted that the Ravens lose to the Giants and have to play for the division. So, in my humble opinion, go Bengals.