Rex Ryan and the Buffalo Bills aren't going to the playoffs this year, but their Week 17 matchup with the New York Jets will nonetheless have significant ramifications on the AFC playoff picture.
Winners of five straight games, the Jets sit at 10-5 and control their own playoff destiny; they'll clinch a playoff berth if they can beat the Bills. Ryan will undoubtedly downplay the fact that he could keep his former team out of the playoffs with an upset win in Orchard Park on Sunday, but you can bet that the Bills will be pulling out all the stops to win their final game of the season.
The AFC is a bit of a free-for-all heading into tonight's critical Monday Night Football game between the 11-3 Cincinnati Bengals and the 10-4 Denver Broncos. Here are the current standings, which include every team still alive in the race:
- New England Patriots (12-3, AFC East champion)
- Cincinnati Bengals (11-3, AFC North champion)
- Denver Broncos (10-4, AFC West leader)
- Houston Texans (8-7, AFC South leader)
- Kansas City Chiefs (10-5, AFC West contender)
- New York Jets (10-5, AFC wild card leader)
- Pittsburgh Steelers (9-6, AFC wild card contender)
- Indianapolis Colts (7-8, AFC South contender)
If Cincinnati beats Denver in Colorado tonight, they'll keep themselves in play for the No. 1 seed in the conference, and Denver would fall behind Kansas City in the AFC West. Kansas City has already clinched a playoff spot, but could still win that division thanks to their nine-game winning streak. Denver can't clinch a division crown by beating Cincinnati tonight, but could clinch a playoff spot. Right now, only New England, Cincinnati, and Kansas City have clinched.
The Jets could slip out of the playoff field if they lose to the Bills, and Pittsburgh beats Cleveland. The AFC South is still up for grabs, as well, with Houston controlling its own destiny, but the Colts still in play.
Meanwhile, in the NFC, six teams have already clinched spots, with Week 17 only serving to sort out seeding. Only one spot is a certainty: Washington will be the No. 4 seed. Here are the standings in that conference:
- Carolina Panthers (14-1, NFC South champion)
- Arizona Cardinals (13-2, NFC West champion)
- Green Bay Packers (10-5, NFC North leader)
- Washington Redskins (8-7, NFC East champion)
- Minnesota Vikings (10-5, NFC North contender)
- Seattle Seahawks (9-6, NFC wild card clinched)