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AFC Playoff Report: State of the Conference

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With the Patriots having already clinched their spot in the playoffs, it is time to draw the ire of Bill Belichick: we look ahead at who the team might face.

"You won't look ahead, Vince."
"You won't look ahead, Vince."
Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

Readers of Pats Pulpit know that we take a look at the divisional foes after each week, in a segment called "AFC East Report". Since the New England Patriots have already clinched the AFC East and a spot in the playoffs, we (i.e. the great Rich Hill) thought it would be a good idea to expand. Therefore, we present you the inaugural AFC Playoff Report.

Beginning with week 16, we will take a look at the AFC playoff picture after every game – and analyze what it means for the seeding as well as the teams involved in the race for the AFC crown.

Seed #1: New England Patriots

Record: 11-3 (1st AFC East)

Week 16: at New York Jets

Streak: 2 Wins

Last 5 Games: 4-1

The Patriots, as we all know, sit atop the AFC entering this week's game against the New York Jets. With a win, they will further strengthen their case for homefield advantage throughout the AFC playoffs.

Statistical Evaluation

Offense

Category

Defense

442 (Rk: 1)

Points

280 (Rk: 8)

5357 (Rk: 8)

Yards

4931 (Rk: 17)

12 (Rk: 2)

Turnovers

23 (Rk: 12)


Seed #2: Denver Broncos

Record: 11-3 (1st AFC West)

Week 16 Opponent: Cincinnati Bengals (in Cincinnati)

Streak: 4 wins

Last 5 Games: 4-1

Against Patriots: loss (21-43, in Foxboro)

Storylines
  • After back-to-back losses against the Patriots and St. Louis Rams, the team has re-discovered its running game.

  • Starting linebacker Danny Trevathan was placed on injured reserve after last week's game in San Diego due to a dislocated knee cap.

  • Former Patriot Aqib Talib is second on the team in both interceptions (3) and passes defensed (14).

Statistical Evaluation

Offense

Category

Defense

407 (Rk: 5)

Points

303 (Rk: 16)

5610 (Rk: 4)

Yards

4331 (Rk: 4)

15 (Rk: 5)

Turnovers

21 (Rk: 17)

Common Opponents with the Patriots

Denver Broncos

Opponent

New England Patriots

W (31-24)

Indianapolis Colts

W (42-20)

2W (24-17, 29-16)

Kansas City Chiefs

L (14-41)

W (31-17)

New York Jets

W (27-25)

2W (35-21, 22-10)

San Diego Chargers

W (23-14)

W (39-36)

Miami Dolphins

L (20-33), W (41-13)

W (24-17)

Buffalo Bills

W (37-22)


Seed #3: Indianapolis Colts

Record: 10-4 (1st AFC South)

Week 16 Opponent: Dallas Cowboys (in Arlington, TX)

Streak: 4 wins

Last 5 Games: 4-1

Against Patriots: loss (20-42, in Indianapolis)

Storylines
  • The Colts pay a visit to the NFC East leading 10-4 Cowboys this week.

  • Quarterback Andrew Luck leads the league in the following categories: pass attempts (578), passing yards (4492), passing touchdowns (38), fumbles (12).

  • Indianapolis has not yet lost a game against a division opponent this year.

Statistical Evaluation

Offense

Category

Defense

424 (Rk: 3)

Points

317 (Rk: 17)

5899 (Rk: 3)

Yards

4914 (Rk: 15)

28 (Rk: 29)

Turnovers

24 (Rk: 7)

Common Opponents with the Patriots

Indianapolis Colts

Opponent

New England Patriots

L (24-31)

Denver Broncos

W (43-21)

W (27-0)

Cincinnati Bengals

W (43-17)


Seed #4: Cincinnati Bengals

Record: 9-4-1 (1st AFC North)

Week 16 Opponent: Denver Broncos (in Cincinnati)

Streak: 1 win

Last 5 Games: 4-1

Against Patriots: loss (17-43, in Foxboro)

Storylines
  • Cincinnati welcomes the #2 seeded Denver Broncos in week 16.

  • Wide receiver Mohamed Sanu has completed all three of his pass attempts this season, throwing one touchdown to quarterback Andy Dalton.

  • The Bengals are the only team in the NFL this year to tie a game (37-37 against the Carolina Panthers).

Statistical Evaluation

Offense

Category

Defense

311 (Rk: 16)

Points

289 (Rk: 10)

4878 (Rk: 13)

Yards

5018 (Rk: 20)

21 (Rk: 18)

Turnovers

19 (Rk: 21)

Common Opponents with the Patriots

Cincinnati Bengals

Opponent

New England Patriots

L (0-27)

Indianapolis Colts

W (42-20)


Seed #5: Pittsburgh Steelers

Record: 9-5 (t-2nd AFC North)

Week 16 Opponent: Kansas City Chiefs (in Pittsburgh)

Streak: 2 wins

Last 5 Games: 3-2

Against Patriots: ---

Storylines
  • The Steelers are banged up in the secondary heading into week 16, as both safety Troy Polamalu and cornerback Ike Taylor are doubtful to play.

  • Wide receiver Antonio Brown leads the league in both receptions (115) and receiving yards (1498). He has also thrown a touchdown.

Statistical Evaluation

Offense

Category

Defense

389 (Rk: 6)

Points

339 (Rk: 20)

5949 (Rk: 1)

Yards

4990 (Rk: 19)

18 (Rk: 10)

Turnovers

17 (Rk: 23)

Common Opponents with the Patriots

Pittsburgh Steelers

Opponent

New England Patriots

W (51-34)

Indianapolis Colts

W (42-20)

L (13-20)

New York Jets

W (27-25)

W (42-21)

Cincinnati Bengals

W (43-17)


Seed #6: Baltimore Ravens

Record: 9-5 (t-2nd AFC North)

Week 16 Opponent: Houston Texans (in Houston)

Streak: 2 wins

Last 5 Games: 4-1

Against Patriots: ---

Storylines
  • The Ravens are one of two teams in the AFC (the other being the Patriots) to be in the top 10 in points per game on both offense and defense.

  • Former Patriots' defensive coordinator Dean Pees is now in his third year as the Ravens' defensive coordinator.

Statistical Evaluation

Offense

Category

Defense

376 (Rk: 8)

Points

267 (Rk: 6)

5208 (Rk: 10)

Yards

4819 (Rk: 13)

17 (Rk: 8)

Turnovers

19 (Rk: 21)

Common Opponents with the Patriots

Baltimore Ravens

Opponent

New England Patriots

2L (16-23, 24-27)

Cincinnati Bengals

W (43-17)

L (13-20)

Indianapolis Colts

W (42-20)

W (28-13)

Miami Dolphins

L (20-33), W (41-13)


In the Hunt

#7 seed: Kansas City Chiefs (8-6)

#8 seed: San Diego Chargers (8-6)

#9 seed: Buffalo Bills (8-6)

#10 seed: Houston Texans (7-7)

#11 seed: Miami Dolphins (7-7)

#12 seed: Cleveland Browns (7-7)