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AFC Playoff Picture: Colts Currently the Third Seed

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We take a weekly look at the AFC playoff picture.

Jim O'Connor-USA TODAY Sports

In week ten, despite several teams being on a bye week, we saw the AFC playoff picture get shaken up some, thanks in large part to the Cleveland Browns' dominant win over the Cincinnati Bengals on Thursday Night Football to take over first place in the AFC North.  Yes, that's right - the Cleveland Browns are in first place in the AFC North and have moved into the projected fourth seed in this week's playoff picture.

Because of that, the Colts moved into the third seed and creep a little closer to that first round bye.  The Bengals dropped to the sixth seed, moving the Chiefs' up one and the Steelers out of the playoffs.  If you're asking me, however, I think the Steelers have a better shot at making the postseason down the stretch than Cincy does, though at this point the Steelers are on the outside looking in with the Bengals having the sixth seed.  Oh, and Kansas City?  Last year many felt like they weren't as good as their record was when they reached the playoffs.  This year, that's different.  They're a legitimate team and one that you don't want to play come playoff time if they keep it up - thought they'll almost certainly be a wild card considering Denver is in the division.  Also of note is that the AFC has eleven teams who are over .500 through ten weeks of the season - that's crazy and should make for an interesting final two months of the season, with so many teams still having playoff hopes.

There is a big matchup in terms of AFC playoff seeding that will take place this weekend, and that involves the Indianapolis Colts and the New England Patriots.  I wrote about it on Monday:

Let's start off by looking at what would happen should the Patriots win.  They'd improve to 8-2 and hold tiebreakers over both the Broncos and Colts, who would be the two teams most likely to push New England out of a bye.  With the Patriots' brutal schedule coming up, the tiebreakers would be a huge boost to the team and would give them the clear edge in getting that first round bye.  Now what would happen should the Colts win?  This is where things get interesting.  If Indy beats New England, the Colts would improve to 7-3 while the Patriots would fall to 7-3, and the Colts would hold the tiebreaker edge.  Regardless of if Denver would win next week (they play the Rams, so it's likely but not a given), if the Colts win they'd be in line for a first round bye as the two seed.  That would leave the Patriots on the outside looking in as far as the week off is concerned.  Should the Colts win, all three teams would be within a game of each other, with the Patriots holding the tiebreaker on the Broncos, the Broncos holding the tiebreaker on the Colts, and the Colts holding the tiebreaker on the Patriots.

Basically, this weekend's game will be huge in terms of seeding and the potential first round bye.  The Colts really don't want to go to New England for a playoff game, so it's important for them to win this game to help ensure that.  Of course, neither a Patriots win nor a Colts win would lock up a first round bye, but the winner has a definite edge in the race for that week off.  So not only should it be a good game, there's also a lot of playoff implications riding on it.

There are still seven weeks in the NFL season to go, but if the playoffs started today the Colts would be hosting the Cincinnati Bengals at Lucas Oil Stadium in the first round of the playoffs - a rematch of the game in which the Colts shut the Bengals out earlier this year, 27-0.

Complete AFC Playoff Picture - Week Ten:

First Round Bye:

1.  New England Patriots (7-2)

2.  Denver Broncos (7-2)

Other Division Leaders:

3.  Indianapolis Colts (6-3)

4.  Cleveland Browns (6-3)

Wild Card:

5.  Kansas City Chiefs (6-3)

6.  Cincinnati Bengals (5-3-1)

In the Hunt:

7.  Pittsburgh Steelers (6-4)

8.  Baltimore Ravens (6-4)

9.  San Diego Chargers (5-4)

10.  Buffalo Bills (5-4)

11. Miami Dolphins (5-4)

12.  Houston Texans (4-5)

13.  Tennessee Titans (2-7)

14.  New York Jets (2-8)

15.  Jacksonville Jaguars (1-9)

16.  Oakland Raiders (0-9)