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AFC Playoff Picture: Colts Currently the Fourth Seed

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We take a weekly look at the AFC playoff picture.

Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

We've already played nine weeks of the NFL season, and as such we're beginning to get an idea of what the playoff picture looks like.  We'll be taking a weekly look for the rest of the season at the playoff picture in the AFC.  Here's what it looks like right now at the conclusion of week nine.

If the playoffs started today, the New England Patriots (7-2) would hold the AFC's number one seed thanks to a win over the Denver Broncos this past weekend.  The Broncos (6-2) would hold the number two seed, and both New England and Denver would have first round byes.  In the first round of the playoffs the two matchups in the AFC would be the number three seed Cincinnati Bengals (5-2-1) hosting the number six seed Kansas City Chiefs (5-3) and the number four seed Indianapolis Colts (6-3) hosting the number five seed Pittsburgh Steelers (6-3).

Of course, the rematch with the Steelers is sure to catch the eyes of many Colts fans, but keep in mind that it's still a long way out and that the game would be in Indianapolis this time.  Along those lines, the Colts are nearly guaranteed of a home matchup, since every division winner hosts at least one game.  With the Colts already holding a two and a half game lead over the second place team in the AFC South, their chances of winning the division are very likely.

For Indianapolis, the real question is about whether the team can get a first round bye, and the answer is: of course they can.  In fact, they've got a good shot to do that, despite being the number four seed currently.  In two weeks following their bye the team will host the Patriots on Sunday Night Football in a game that could prove to be pivotal in the first  round bye conversation, and from there on out the Colts' schedule eases up quite a bit - with three of their last six games being against the AFC South and another one a home game against the Washington Redskins.  The Patriots, meanwhile, have a brutal schedule - with games at the Colts, against the Lions, at the Packers, at the Chargers, against the Dolphins, at the Jets, and then against the Bills.  The Broncos' schedule is considerably easier than New England's, but still with some tough games against the Dolphins, Chiefs, Bills, Chargers, and Bengals looming.  The Bengals also have a tough schedule, playing the Browns, at the Saints, at the Texans, at the Buccaneers, against the Steelers, at the Browns, against the Broncos, and at the Steelers.  In short - while the Colts do have games against the Patriots, Browns, and Cowboys remaining, their remaining schedule is much easier than the other current division leaders.  Especially if they notch a win against the Patriots in two weeks, the Colts will be set up well for a first round bye - and even if they don't win that game, they'll still be in competition for it.

We still have a long way to go, but right now the Colts are the fourth seed in the AFC and they'd host the Steelers in the wild card round of the AFC playoffs.  With that said, however, the Colts still have a good shot at a first round bye and that's what they're gunning for now.

Complete AFC Playoff Picture - Week Nine:

First Round Bye:

1.  New England Patriots (7-2)

2.  Denver Broncos (6-2)

Other Division Leaders:

3.  Cincinnati Bengals (5-2-1)

4.  Indianapolis Colts (6-3)

Wild Card:

5.  Pittsburgh Steelers (6-3)

6.  Kansas City Chiefs (5-3)

In the Hunt:

7.  Cleveland Browns (5-3)

8.  Buffalo Bills (5-3)

9.  Miami Dolphins (5-3)

10.  San Diego Chargers (5-4)

11.  Baltimore Ravens (5-4)

12.  Houston Texans (4-5)

13.  Tennessee Titans (2-6)

14.  New York Jets (1-8)

15.  Jacksonville Jaguars (1-8)

16.  Oakland Raiders (0-8)