AFC wild-card scenarios for Week 17
Four teams remain in the running for the AFC’s sixth and final playoff spot. Here’s what each team needs to happen in Week 17 to claim that berth:
Miami Dolphins (8-7) would clinch with:
• A win plus either a loss by Baltimore or win by San Diego.
• A tie plus losses by Baltimore and San Diego.
Not one of the quartet in the hunt fully controls its own destiny — a bizarre twist added by the NFL’s tiebreaker scenarios. Miami currently holds the edge on Baltimore because San Diego, a winner Sunday, created a three-team tie at 8-7. In that scenario, the Ravens’ win over Miami is canceled out by Miami’s win over San Diego, pushing the conference-record tiebreaker to the forefront. The Dolphins hold that edge on both the Ravens and Chargers.
Baltimore Ravens (8-7) would clinch with:
• A win plus a loss by either Miami or San Diego.
• A loss plus losses by Miami, San Diego and Pittsburgh.
That aforementioned three-team tiebreaker? Baltimore needs to break it in Week 17 to pull back into the No. 6 seed. The Ravens have to do that by winning, first of all, and then getting the Dolphins or Chargers to trip up. Head-to-head, Baltimore would hold the tiebreaker edge on either of those teams. In a three-team jumble where all three teams have the same record, the Ravens would miss out.
San Diego Chargers (8-7) would clinch with:
• A win or tie plus losses by Miami and Baltimore.
The Chargers are third in the pecking order. They would lose the head-to-head tiebreaker with Miami, the conference-record tiebreaker with Baltimore and would be No. 3 in the three-team tiebreaker. So, the Chargers’ only hope is to get to 9-7 and hope for help.
Pittsburgh Steelers (7-8) would clinch with:
• A win plus losses by Baltimore, Miami (vs. NY Jets) and San Diego.
Pretty straightforward for the Steelers, who no doubt feel fortunate just to get to Week 17 with a shot. The Jets’ win over Cleveland was huge for them, despite neither of those teams having a postseason shot, because the Steelers need the Jets to get to 8-8 — thus drawing even with the Dolphins.
Here again, we get into a sloppy tiebreaker scenario. The NFL breaks intra-divisional tiebreakers first, even in wild-card scenarios. So, an 8-8 Jets team would eliminate an 8-8 Dolphins team, preventing that Dolphins team from bouncing the Steelers.
Still following? Essentially, the Steelers need a five-way tie at 8-8 between themselves, the Ravens, Jets, Dolphins and Chargers. They’d then hold the edge on every team but Miami … which New York would send packing.