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AFC Wild Card Picture

Heading into Week 14, there were five teams in the AFC with a 7-5 record competing for just two playoff spots. Let's take a look at how each of them fared before analyzing the remaining schedules for all relevant contenders.

New York Jets : Up until this weekend, I thought the Jets would earn one of the two Wild Card berths primarily due to their weak schedule. NY hosted Buffalo this weekend in a game they really needed to win. They didn't. In fact, they played one of their poorest games of the year, falling to the Bills 31-13. Willis McGahee ran wild against the Jets' defense, and Pennington made several critical mistakes that led to Buffalo points. The Jets are not out of it, but they're most likely going to have to win back-to-back road games at Minnesota and at Miami before finishing the season at home against the Raiders.

Kansas City Chiefs Kansas City is the only one of the WC contenders that Pittsburgh has beaten this year, but it's not at all likely that a Wild Card spot will be decided by that head-to-head tiebreaker. We all know Pittsburgh is all but out of it, but the Chiefs are now in big trouble too after losing to Baltimore on Sunday 20-10. Larry Johnson got his 100+ yards, but the Chiefs defense had trouble slowing down the Ravens offense. McNair finished the afternoon with more than 280 yards passing, while Trent Green threw 2 INTs and coughed up a fumble. Is it too late to go back to Damon Huard?? The road doesn't get any easier for KC. They travel to San Diego next week to take on a Chargers team that is not only hot, but is also competing for home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.

Denver : I would dismiss Denver's playoff chances altogether, but their 7-4 conference record is the best of the contenders. That means if there's a 3-way tie at 9-7 and conference records are used as a tiebreaker, Denver would be in. The problem is Denver has to win at least two of their final three games to be in that position. With the way they're playing, that's unlikely. Denver got annihilated by San Diego yesterday afternoon. Although they made a game of it for a few minutes of the 2nd half, the Broncos were essentially embarrassed yesterday. Many people expected Jay Cutler to struggle a bit, but I don't think anybody would have guessed the Broncos defense would self-destruct the way it has. The good news for Denver is they still have games left against the 49ers and Cardinals. The bad news is Jay Cutler has to lead them to victory. Cutler doesn't exactly have the most illustrious track record as a winner either in college, or in his brief NFL career.

Jacksonville : Ugh, the Jaguars look like they're going to return to the playoffs in 2006. Jacksonville absolutely dominated the Indianapolis defense yesterday to the tune of 447 yards. The Jaguars ran the ball at will yesterday. Fred Taylor ran for 131 yards while rookie Maurice Jones-Drew totaled 166 yards on the ground.  That's domination. The Jaguars run defense was solid as usual, allowing Joseph Addai to run for only 22 yards on 11 carries.  The Jaguars do have a tough schedule remaining. They travel to Tennessee next week to take on a Titans team that is as hot as any team in the NFL right before playing New England in Week 16 and finishing with Kansas City. Pittsburgh needs Jacksonville to lose at least two of their remaining three games, and with that schedule, it's very much a possibility.

Cincinnati : The Bengals took care of business this Sunday against the Raiders. Big deal. With the win however, Cincinnati now controls its own destiny. Win and they're in. Problem is, it's not going to be easy with their schedule. The Bengals travel to Indianapolis to take on a Colts squad that is desperate for a win. They then head to Denver for a game that will have huge playoff implications for both teams. If the Bengals were to lose one of the next two games, and Pittsburgh were to take care of Carolina and Baltimore, we would be playing the Bengals in week 17 with a playoff berth potentially at stake.

It was another wacky weekend of football, and although the stars didn't align perfectly for the Steelers, a playoff berth is more likely than it was a week ago. Don't get me wrong: the possibility is still very remote, but we all pledged to keep faith alive until the final chip fell.

Go Steelers!