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AFC Playoff Picture: Division races come down to final two weeks

Taking a weekly look at the AFC playoff picture.

Thomas J. Russo-USA TODAY Sports

For the first time since we began looking at the playoff picture this year, the Colts would miss the postseason if it started today.

Because of their 16-10 loss to the Houston Texans on Sunday, the Colts are now in second place in the AFC South and will need a lot of help to make the postseason.  In fact, the Texans could clinch the division this week if they win and the Colts lose.  So it is looking like a very possible reality that the Colts will miss the playoffs this year, meaning that the offseason changes will get underway faster than they otherwise would have.

The AFC playoff picture is getting cleared up quite a bit as we have just two weeks remaining.  The New England Patriots have wrapped up the AFC East division and a first round bye, and they are currently the number one seed in the playoffs.  The only other team in the AFC to have wrapped up a playoff spot is the Cincinnati Bengals, who are the current number two seed, but while they are guaranteed to make the playoffs, they still could potentially lose the AFC North to the Pittsburgh Steelers, who are currently 9-5 and the sixth seed but who would be as dangerous as any team in the postseason.

Perhaps the biggest question mark as it pertains to division titles is the AFC West, however.  The Denver Broncos have been slumping recently while the Kansas City Chiefs are on an eight game winning streak.  It's very possible that the Chiefs could catch the Broncos if Denver continues to struggle, and then it's also possible (though unlikely) that the Broncos could miss the playoffs entirely.

The Steelers, Chiefs, and New York Jets are all currently fighting for a wild card spot at 9-5, so there will certainly be some intrigue over the next two weeks.  The only other two teams who are not yet eliminated in the AFC playoff race are the Indianapolis Colts and the Jacksonville Jaguars, both of whom still stand a shot at winning the AFC South but neither of whom could earn a wild card spot.  So, whenever the Texans lock up the division (and it could be as early as this weekend), the Colts and Jaguars would drop out of playoff contention.

If the playoffs started today, the Broncos would host the Steelers in the wild card round (Denver just lost to the Steelers last Sunday 34-27) while the Texans would host the Chiefs (who beat the Texans 27-20 in week one).  And the Indianapolis Colts, a very popular Super Bowl pick pre-season, would be left at home.

Here's the full AFC playoff picture:

1.  New England Patriots (12-2)

2.  Cincinnati Bengals (11-3)

3.  Denver Broncos (10-4)

4.  Houston Texans (7-7)

5.  Kansas City Chiefs (9-5)

6.  Pittsburgh Steelers (9-5)

7.  New York Jets (9-5)

8.  Indianapolis Colts (6-8)

9.  Jacksonville Jaguars (5-9)



Buffalo Bills (6-8)

Oakland Raiders (6-8)

Miami Dolphins (5-9)

Baltimore Ravens (4-10)

San Diego Chargers (4-10)

Cleveland Browns (3-11)

Tennessee Titans (3-11)