The magic number for the Colts to clinch
the top seed is now down to 4 with their victory over Pittsburgh. The Broncos,
the team with the best chance to challenge Indy for the top spot, barely emerged
with a win last week with an overtime win on Thanksgiving Day over Dallas, so
they didn't hurt themselves.
Houston, Tennessee, New York, Baltimore, Miami, Cleveland, Buffalo, Oakland: The last three teams on this list are new additions. Their magic number was 1 last week, and all three lost. If any of them had survived their Sunday battle, the Colts loss would have knocked them out anyway.
The Patriots got hit with a double-whammy last weekend. They lost to the Chiefs and the Colts won. Their number dropped from 3 to 1. So a Colts win or a Pats loss this weekend guarantees the Colts won't be playing in Foxborough this year....in the snow....again.
Kansas City, San Diego, Pittsburgh, Jacksonville: Despite winning their games last weekend, the Chiefs and Chargers saw their number drop from 3 to 2 with the Colts win. The Chargers won in overtime against the Redskins, or they would be down to their last straw like the Patriots. A Colts win and a loss by these teams knocks them out of contention this weekend. The Chiefs play the Broncos while the Chargers host the scrappy Raiders.
Pittsburgh took the big dive from 4 to 2 this week thanks to the shellacking they took on Monday Night Football. They could be eliminated this week with a Colts win and a loss in their game to the Bengals.
The Jaguars head to freezing cold Cleveland with David Garrard at the helm. I had the magic number for them at three, but the league says the Colts can clinch the AFC South with a combo of a Colts win and a Jags loss this weekend, and that would make it impossible for the Jags to eventually overcome the Colts for home field. I've been looking at the tie-breakers and still haven't figured it out yet. The Colts would be assured of a 12-4 finish with a win, but the Jags could still do that as well even with a loss. And for both teams to finish 12-4 that would include a Jax win over the Colts next weekend. That would split the first tie-breaker in the division. Then you'd look at W-L in the division and that would be a tie as well at 5-1. Eventually one of these tie-breakers must kick in or the league wouldn't be setting the number at 2 instead of 3.
Cincinnati: The Bengals won last weekend, so they only lost ground by one game. Cincinnati, who lost to the Steelers earlier this year, will be looking to hold onto their slim lead in the AFC North against a desperate Pittsburgh team.
Denver: The Broncos are at 9-2 and travel to Kansas City this weekend. They should be challenged by a Chiefs team that appears to be gaining steam with RB Larry Johnson running wild. Over the next few weeks Denver plays Baltimore, Buffalo, Oakland, and San Diego. So this weekend would be a good time for them to take one on the chin.
This weekend's action
Here are the teams I recommend you root for this weekend to help drop these magic numbers further with four weeks remaining when these games are over:
Jets over Patriots
Steelers over Bengals
Browns over Jaguars
Raiders over Chargers
Chiefs over Broncos
According to the league office the Colts can clinch at minimum a playoff spot, in other words, at least a wildcard spot this weekend with any of the following scenarios:
• A victory.
• A tie and a Pittsburgh loss or tie against Cincinnati.
• A tie and a San Diego loss or tie at home against Oakland.
• A Pittsburgh loss and a San Diego loss.
• A Pittsburgh loss and a Kansas City loss at home against Denver.
The Colts can also clinch the AFC South with a win and a Jacksonville loss.
They can even clinch a first-round bye in the playoffs this weekend with a win and a Jacksonville loss and a Cincinnati loss.