With two games left in the NFL season, the final pieces are coming into place. The Patriots have already clinched a top-two seed in the AFC thanks to a common games tiebreaker with Cincinnati, who plays Denver on Sunday. The Bengals have also clinched the AFC North and a top 3 seed, but could clinch the #2 seed with a victory over the Broncos. The Broncos would clinch the AFC West with a win over Cincinnati and have the tiebreaker in case the Broncos and Bengals both win in Week 17. The Texans can win the AFC South division with a win and Indianapolis loss. The Wild Card spots can be clinched by the Chiefs and Steelers if they get a Jets loss along with each team winning their game.
The Patriots have the inside track to the top seed in the AFC and can afford to take a loss in the final two games. Ideally, they clinch Home Field by defeating the Jets in Week 16 then they can rest their key players for Week 17. With the first round bye, that gives them two weeks of rest. A Patriots win would open the door for the two hottest AFC teams to punch their ticket to the playoffs with one of them likely headed to Foxboro in January. If the Patriots, Steelers, and Chiefs all win on Sunday, that also eliminates the Jets from playoff contention. Even though the Steelers and Chiefs present a more daunting matchup than the Jets on paper, I don't like to see a divisional opponent in the playoffs who have two games of film to look at with the most recent being four weeks prior.
For the Week 16 games, I expect Denver to win at home, the Steelers to defeat the Ravens on the road, the Texans to defeat the Titans, and the Chiefs to defeat the Cleveland Browns. That would guarantee that the 6 AFC playoff teams are the Patriots, Broncos, Bengals, Texans, Chiefs, and Steelers going into Week 17 with only the Texans yet to clinch since the Colts play the Dolphins. The Patriots will face either the AFC South winner or one of the two Wild Card teams in the divisional round.