Just two weeks ago the Denver Broncos looked destined to finish no better than 4th in the AFC playoff picture. How quickly things change.
The Broncos moved themselves up to the #2 Seed in the AFC this afternoon by beating the Baltimore Ravens 34-17. They now have the luxury of controlling their own destiny in the chase for a 1st Round BYE after the New England Patriots fell short against the San Fancisco 49ers 41-34 on Sunday Night Football.
With home games remaining against the Cleveland Browns(5-9) and Kansas City Chiefs(2-12), the Broncos are poised to get a well-deserved break when the NFL Playoffs start on January 5th and 6th.
As things stand, here is the latest AFC Playoff Picture, along with the remaining schedule for each team:
#1 Seed - Houston Texans(12-2) - Vs. Vikings, At Colts - Needed a big win over the Indianapolis Colts just to win the AFC South. They got it and thanks to the Patriots loss are in need of just one more win to clinch home field advantage throughout the playoffs.
#2 Seed - Denver Broncos(11-3) - Vs. Browns, Vs. Chiefs - The Broncos have the inside track to the #2 seed. Should the Texans slip up, they could still move up to #1. All that's important now for Denver is to keep winning, especially with inferior opponents coming to town.
#3 Seed - New England Patriots(10-4) - At Jaguars, Vs. Dolphins - The Patriots will be kicking themselves that they couldn't complete the comeback over the Niners. New England has two winnable games remaining and now could be staring at a trip to Denver in the AFC Divisional Round instead of the Broncos having to travel east. That could be huge.
#4 Seed - Baltimore Ravens(9-5) - Vs. Giants, At Bengals - The Ravens have fallen from the #2 seed all the way to #4 on the heels of a 3-game losing streak. They look to be in disarray after firing their offensive coordinator and as injuries continue to pile up on defense. If the Ravens aren't careful they could easily lose the AFC North and face the long road to the Super Bowl. The Ravens are in, however, clinching a playoff spo, thanks to the Steelers' loss to the Cowboys.
#5 Seed - Indianapolis Colts(9-5) - At Chiefs, Vs. Texans - The Colts are just about locks to make the playoffs. A win against the Chiefs on Sunday would likely get the job done.
#6 Seed - Cincinnati Bengals(8-6) - At Steelers, Vs. Ravens - The Bengals control their own destiny, too. Beat the Steelers and Ravens - something Cincinnati has struggled to do recently - and they are in as a Wildcard. Slip up, and the Bengals could miss out on the tournament all together.
STILL IN THE HUNT: Pittsburgh(7-7), New York Jets(6-7)
NFC PLAYOFF PICTURE:
#1 Seed - Atlanta Falcons(12-2) - At Lions, Vs. Buccaneers - Anyone with questions about the Falcons should have some pretty good answers after Atlanta crushed the defending Super Bowl Champs 34-0 on Sunday. How the finish the season, however, against teams they should beat could indicate what they ultimately do in the playoffs. Let's face it, until Matty Ice does it in January it really doesn't matter.
#2 Seed - San Francisco 49ers(10-3-1) - At Seahawks, Vs. Cardinals - How fun is the Sunday Night Football matchup next week going to be? The Niners will head to Seattle to take on Russell Wilson and the Seahawks. Had San Francisco lost to New England, that game could have decided the NFC West. As it is, the Niners need to keep winning if they are going to hold on to the coveted BYE.
#3 Seed - Green Bay Packers(10-4) - Vs. Titans, At Vikings - Green Bay is quietly lurking, hoping that San Fran will slip up. The recently crowned NFC North champions are getting healthy at the right time and will be a force to be reckoned with, especially if teams have to travel to Lambeau Field in the playoffs.
#4 Seed - Washington Redskins(8-6) - At Eagles, Vs. Cowboys - The Redskins were 3-6 when Mike Shanahan said the time had come to see which players were going to be part of the future in Washington. Five straight wins has the Redskins looking directly at an NFC East title. Washington currently holds the tie-breakers in the 3-way divisional tie with the Giants and Cowboys but two tests remain. The 'Skins control their own destiny, however.
#5 Seed - Seattle Seahawks(9-5) - Vs. Niners, Vs. Rams - Seattle may be the hottest team in the NFL outside of the Broncos. They've won 5 of their last 6 and have scored 50+ points in two straight games. They still have a shot at the NFC West, but the #5 seed looks more like it, not that Pete Carroll cares where his team plays right now.
#6 Seed - Minnesota Vikings(8-6) - At Texans, Vs. Packers - The Vikings are currently in the tournament if the playoffs started today. Minnesota wins tie-breakers over the Cowboys, Giants and Bears, and Adrian Peterson seems heel-bent on breaking Eric Dickerson's rushing record - carrying the Vikings playoff hopes along with him. It won't be easy, both of their remaining opponents are playoff teams with something to play for. The fact they are even in the conversation, however, may win Leslie Frazier Coach of the Year.
STILL IN THE HUNT: Chicago Bears(8-6), Dallas Cowboys(8-6), New York Giants(8-6)
There are still two weeks to go - and a game on Monday night - with plenty of playoff scenarios still to be decided. The most important to Broncos Country, however, is this. If Denver wins their final two games they are the #2 Seed. It doesn't get much better than that!