KANSAS CITY, Mo. (TNS) — The top four seeds are set in the AFC playoff field, and the Chiefs are locked into the No. 4 spot.
The wild-card race is wide open with four teams battling for two spots. The Ravens, Titans, Bills and Chargers are all alive for a wild-card berth, but only Tennessee and Baltimore can win and get in. The Bills and Chargers need some help.
With the Chiefs set as the No. 4 seed, they will play the fifth seed at Arrowhead Stadium in the first round of the playoffs on Jan. 6 or Jan. 7. Only three of those four teams in the wild-card hunt can elevate to the No. 5 seed.
Here are the scenarios:
This appears to be the most likely outcome from Sunday’s games. Baltimore will clinch the No. 5 seed with a home victory over the 6-9 Bengals. With a win, the Ravens will improve to 10-6, and the other teams battling for a wild-card spot — Titans, Bills and Chargers — all have eight wins heading into Sunday’s games. Baltimore would also get the fifth seed with a tie. The Ravens have another path to the fifth seed if they lose and the Titans and Bills also lose or tie.
Should the Ravens lose on Sunday, the Titans can claim the No. 5 seed with a victory over Jacksonville. The AFC South rivals will meet in Nashville, Tenn., and the Jaguars have already clinched the No. 3 seed in the playoffs. They could rest their starters on Sunday, which would give Tennessee an edge. Of course, the Jaguars also would have a chance to knock the Titans out of the playoff field with a win.
Buffalo needs help to make the playoffs, but they still have a shot at the No. 5 seed. It would take three things happening: a Bills win at Miami; a Ravens loss to the Bengals; and a Titans loss/tie to the Jaguars. If that happened, Baltimore and Buffalo would be 9-7 and the Bills would get the fifth seed as a result of a tie breaker. This happens regardless of whether the Chargers win Sunday and get to 9-7 as well.