December 10, 2009
One Wild Card spot will belong to the AFC West, either the Denver Broncos or the San Diego Chargers - if they slip a couple games. That leaves five teams vying to clinch the final spot.
Current Wild Card front runner, Jacksonville, has the least chance of making it. They play the Dolphins and Colts at home the next two weeks, and with the Jaguars inability to sell out games, they won't have any such home field advantage. Then they travel to New England before ending the season at Cleveland. Jacksonville could very well lose their next three games and finish the season 8-8.
The Pittsburgh Steelers have lost five in a row including Thursday's embarrasing loss to Cleveland. Oakland beat them with nine seconds left in the game and Kansas City beat them in overtime three weeks ago. Their last three games are against Green Bay, Baltimore and Miami. Wins against Baltimore and Miami are possible, but the way this team is playing right now, it will be struggle each and every down.
What can you say about the Jets? After a quick 3-0 start they have lost 6 of 9, but still find themselves at .500. The Dolphins and the Jaguars hold tie breakers against them based on head-to-head match-ups and the Ravens have a better Conference record. New York has games remaining against Atlanta, Indianapolis and Cincinnati. They will need more than just winning out in order to secure a post-season berth.
That leaves the Ravens and the Dolphins. Baltimore has the easiest schedule of the five teams. They play Detriot, Chicago, Oakland and a division game against the Steelers, while Miami travels to Jacksonville and Tennessee before returning home for Houston and Pittsburgh. Miami already has the tie breaker over the Jets and with wins against Jacksonville and Pittsburgh Baltimore will be their biggest concern.
If both teams win out, their tie breaker will come to strength of victory. Miami currently holds a 29-28 edge over Baltimore. Miami's remaining schedule has a strength of victory of 23 compared to the 17 of the Ravens. Unless Baltimore's opponents make a drastic turnaround by winning 50 percent of their games and Miami's opponents flop, the Dolphins would have the tie breaker over the Ravens.
Last year Miami found themselves in the same position. Miami was in control of their destiny. It was easy - win and you're in. The Dolphins went on to win their last four games to clinch the AFC East. With four to go Miami has a chance to do it all over again.