The top five seeds in the AFC are essentially locked in, as Denver, Cincinnati, New England, Indianapolis, and Kansas City are primed to make the postseason. The sixth seed is up for grabs, however, with the two main contenders being Baltimore and Miami. Both are 7-6, but Baltimore won the head-to-head matchup.
Don’t look now, but only the Texans have been mathematically eliminated in the AFC. Teams such as the Raiders, Browns, Bills, and Jaguars are still alive, but are on the outside looking in.
The Chargers and Jets are both 6-7, but will have trouble keeping up with the Ravens and Dolphins, as tough schedules loom for both teams – San Diego plays Denver and Kansas City, while New York plays Carolina and Miami.
Despite the clogged up AFC playoff picture, the Ravens and Dolphins are the two biggest contenders to grab the sixth seed. Baltimore’s schedule looks like this: at Detroit (7-6), vs. New England (10-3), and at Cincinnati (9-4), while Miami plays easier opponents based on current strength of schedule: vs. New England (10-3), at Buffalo (4-9), and vs. New York Jets (6-7).
Baltimore’s opponents have a combined record of 26-13 (.667), while Miami’s opponents have a combined record of 20-19 (.513). Based purely on schedule, the edge goes to Miami – I see them winning at least two of their remaining games. The Ravens, however, play opponents with the same record or a better record than they currently have, and every matchup is tough.
It’s impossible to predict who’ll win each game (this is the NFL, after all – the Browns were a bad pass interference call away from beating the Patriots) but based on the schedule, I would not be surprised if Baltimore ends up 8-8 and Miami runs away with the sixth seed at 9-7. If these teams finish with the same record, Baltimore will get the playoff bid because of their win over Miami in Week 5.
In terms of the teams themselves, it’s easy to say that Baltimore is better because they won the head-to-head matchup. But they barely escaped Miami with a 26-23 win, watching Caleb Sturgis’s potential game-tying long field goal attempt sail wide left.
Ryan Tannehill (62.0% completion, 20 touchdowns, 14 interceptions) has been playing better than Joe Flacco (59.4% completion, 18 touchdowns, 17 interceptions), but it seems like every starting quarterback has. Alright, maybe besides RGIII.
Flacco and the Ravens get a huge boost to their offense with Dennis Pitta’s return, but the running game and the defense both have their fair share of issues. Meanwhile, the Richie Incognito-Jonathan Martin situation is having an impact on the game itself – Miami’s pass protection has been suspect for a while.
Joe Flacco proved that he can get it done in the clutch last year and the Ravens are looking to make a similar run. I just don’t see that happening with key pieces lost on both offense and defense. They’re barely in the playoff race and they clearly have competition.
The two teams played a close game back in October – the two teams seem to be at the same level in terms of talent and ability. However, I give the edge for the sixth seed in the AFC goes to Miami. Maybe that’s just a hunch, but they’re starting to get hot (even in the snow up in Pittsburgh) and benefit from a somewhat easy schedule.
Who do you think will get the sixth seed? Let me know below.
Follow Rishi on Twitter @NotTheFakePochi
Follow NFL Spin Zone on Twitter @NFLSpinZone