Update [2006-12-19 11:51:54 by BigBlueShoe]: This has been updated to reflect the Bengals loss to the Colts on Monday, Dec. 18th.
We'll start first with who in the AFC is definitely in:
San Diego Chargers: After beating the Denver Broncos last week, the Chargers clinched the AFC West. This means they are in, and will host a playoff game. They also have the inside track on home field throughout the AFC playoffs if they win out.
Indianapolis Colts: With the Jaguars losing to the Titans, the Colts have clinched the AFC South Division (again). This means they are in, and will host a playoff game. To get homefield throughout, the Colts must win out and hope San Diego loses both of its next two games. If San Diego does, the Colts would have a better conference record, and thus gain homefield throughout. If the Chargers, Colts, and Ravens win out, the Colts gain the second seed and the first round bye due to their strength of schedule.
Baltimore Ravens: They clinched the AFC North AFC North when the Colts defeated the Cincinnati Bengals on MNF. To get homefield advantage throughout the AFC playoffs, Baltimore must win out and hope San Diego and Indianapolis lose one game. The Ravens own the tie-breaker (head-to-head) with the Chargers. If Indianapolis, Baltimore, and San Diego all end the season 13-3, San Diego would have homefield (better conference and division record) and the Colts would have the second seed (strength of AFC schedule).
This next group consists of teams that will most likely get in the playoffs:
New England Patriots: The AFC East is a joke, and the Patriots will most likely win it (again). This means they are in, and will host a playoff game. They have a slim, outside chance at the second seed. The Patriots must win out, and hope Baltimore and the Colts to lose out, essentially. Homefield for the Pats is a pipe dream.
Cincinnati Bengals: If they win out, the Bengals are in prime shape to make the playoffs. They are 6-4 in the AFC and 4-1 in their division. Their one loss in the division was to the Ravens. Their game against Pittsburgh is huge.
Denver Broncos: They switched QBs and are now starting a rookie, and yet still have a chance at the playoffs. Denver must win out and they are in, period. If they win out, they would have a 8-4 conference record.
These teams have chance to get in if some things happen:
Jacksonville Jaguars: Yes, despite getting swept by the Houston Texans and holding a 2-4 division record, the 8-6 Jags still have a shot to get in the playoffs. They must win out and hope Denver stumbles.
New York Jets: The Jets get in if the win out and Denver and/or Jacksonville loses one game. Denver currently has a better conference and division record. The Jets have a shot at winning the AFC East if they win out and New England loses its last two games. However, to get into the playoffs, they need to win out and have Jacksonville lose one game. The Jets lost to the Jags earlier this season.
Tennessee Titans: They started 2-7, and have promptly won 5 straight despite the limitations of their over-hyped rookie QB, Vince Young. Jeff Fisher has done a tremendous job coaching this team. They can make the playoffs if they win out and the Denver Broncos lose their last two games and the Jaguars and the Jets lose one game. If that scenario plays out, Tennessee would have the better division record (4-2) and thus gets in over Jacksonville, Denver, and the Jets.
Technically, these teams are still in the hunt. However, technically, you can make pigs fly:
Pittsburgh Steelers, Buffalo Bills, and the KC Chiefs all have a chance to get in, but so many teams have to lose its not even worth discussing. Basically, these teams have to get lucky to get in. Of these three, the Steelers have the best chance. If they win out, they will have a 4-2 division record.
The Dolphins essentially ended all post-season hopes losing badly to the Bills this past Sunday.
While much clearer, the field of teams in the AFC is certainly more formidable than the NFC. It is very possible yet another 10-6 team will miss the playoffs. Last year, it was the Chiefs. This year, if the Jets, Jaguars, Broncos win out, they'd each be 10-6 with only two playoff spots available. If these teams win out, and the Patriots lose their next two, Then the Patriots would fall to the sixth seed at 10-6 because of their lose to Denver (head-to-head), and they would lose the division to the Jets.
If my scenarios are wrong, let me know and I'll correct them.
Next, the NFC playoff picture. Be prepared to get dizzy.