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Sorting out the five playoff contenders in the AFC

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Marshall Faulk wants to know why the Steelers are legitimate playoff contenders and how they'll advance to the post-season.

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Two playoff spots, five teams in the AFC in the running - the Steelers, Chiefs, Ravens, Chargers and Bills. Marshall Faulk wants to know why the Steelers deserve that final spot.

It would seem, with a race this tight, the team able to win its last two games will and deserves to earn one of those spots. Looking at schedules, it's clear the Ravens have the best chance of winning out. The Texans signed a guy off the street to start at quarterback - Case Keenum - heading into their Week 16 game in Houston. After that, they have Johnny Manziel and the collapsing Browns in Baltimore. It's hard to find a string of events that would need to unfold to see the Ravens losing either of those games. And with that, a loss from both Pittsburgh and Cincinnati in Week 16 would set up a Week 17 division championship situation for the Ravens.

If the Steelers can defeat a tough Chiefs team in Pittsburgh in Week 16, they'll play Cincinnati for the division title - perhaps it's Cincinnati who would clinch their second straight division championship if they win, perhaps it's Baltimore. Either way, the Steelers have positioned themselves to win their next two games and take the division crown. It's wild in the AFC North.

San Diego started off as well as any team in the NFL. They fell apart around mid-season but a huge win over Baltimore helped alleviate the tough loss they took at the hands of the Patriots the following week. It doesn't offset the ensuing loss to the Broncos, but even with those, they can top San Francisco this weekend and take out Kansas City in Week 17 to position themselves well for the postseason.

The Chiefs can say the same thing. A win over Pittsburgh as well as a home win over the Chargers would likely put them in the playoffs. Buffalo has to travel cross-country to take on the hapless Raiders but will go to Foxboro to take on a Patriots team that may not have anything to play for in the season's final week.

Just because it seems to be this kind of season, I'm seeing Pittsburgh winning out, as well as Baltimore, who falls to the sixth seed because the Bengals win this weekend against Denver but falls to Pittsburgh in the season finale.

That's about as crazy a scenario as it gets, but it has been a crazy year.

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