Off topic, can we talk about how Bill Belichick looks like Bigfoot in the cover picture?
On topic, Belichick is going to be harder to find than Bigfoot over the next few weeks so he can avoid answering questinos about the playoffs (see what I did there?).
The Patriots have the top seed locked down, and only the Colts (4th seed!) have nothing else to play for. The Broncos could still lose out of a first round bye, while the Bengals could either sneak in at the #2 seed, or fall to the #5 seed with a loss. The Steelers are either the #3 or the #5 seed. The Chargers, Ravens, Texans, and Chiefs are all alive for the #6 spot.
Oh, and to top it off, everyone is pretty much playing each other.
The One Seed
The Two Seed
If the Broncos beat the Raiders, it's their seed. If they lose, they need the Steelers to beat the Bengals. A Broncos loss and a Bengals victory hands the Bengals the #2 seed.
The Three Seed
If the Broncos win, then the #3 seed is whoever wins the Battle for the AFC North crown between the Bengals and Steelers. If the Broncos lose, then a Bengals win drops Denver to #3. A Steelers win keeps the Broncos in #2 and gives Pittsburgh #3.
The Four Seed
The Five Seed
Loser of the Battle for the AFC North crown gets the five seed.
The Six Seed
The only spot not yet clinched by a playoff team.
If the Chargers win against the Chiefs, they're in. If they lose, they're out.
If the Chargers lose, then if the Ravens beat the Browns, they're in. If the Ravens lose, they're out.
If the Chargers and the Ravens lose, then if Texans beat the Jaguars, they're in. If the Texans lose, they're out.
If the Chargers, Ravens, and Texans lose, then that means the Chiefs get the final spot.
That's fun, right?
So this sets up a Wild Card Weekend between:
The AFC North Winner or Denver and the last team into the playoffs (Chargers/Ravens/Texans/Chiefs)
The Colts and the AFC North Loser
Which means that the Patriots can't play Denver or the winner of the AFC North until the Conference Championship game.
The Patriots first playoff game will be against the following:
4. Colts - Patriots won handily on the road; this time the game will be in Foxboro. The Colts will have to win against the loser of the AFC North- and the Steelers already crushed Indianapolis this year.
5. AFC North Loser - The Bengals are playing in Pittsburgh, so it wouldn't be surprising to see the Bengals here; the Patriots beat them handily already. Pittsburgh might be the worst case scenario here as they have an explosive offense and a good enough defensive front seven.
6. Chargers/Ravens/Texans/Chiefs - The Patriots beat the Chargers; a rematch would be fun in Foxboro with the Patriots coming off a break. The Ravens are a dark horse, but they've looked terrible lately and don't have any defensive backs. The Texans don't have an offense to speak of. The Chiefs would be an entertaining rematch for the Patriots.
Do any of the opening round scenarios worry you for the Patriots? The Steelers probably give the Patriots the biggest run for their money, so hopefully Pittsburgh wins the AFC North crown. This would likely pit the Steelers against the Broncos in the Divisional round and give the Patriots a team they've already beaten (Colts, Bengals, Chargers) or one they should be able to beat (Ravens, Texans, Chiefs).
How do you hope Week 17 will play out?