Every one of the dozen teams in contention will be playing for something during the season's final weekend: some form of home-field advantage, a division title or a wild card.
There will be games in which winning and losing means the difference between being in the playoffs and going home for the new year.
Games involving two AFC contenders: In addition to Miami at New England, Kansas City at Oakland and Baltimore at Pittsburgh.
Games matching an AFC contender against an NFC contender: Cleveland at home against Atlanta and the Jets at home against Green Bay.
AFC contenders playing against non-contenders: Tennessee at Houston, Indianapolis at home against Jacksonville, Denver at home against Arizona and San Diego at home against Seattle.
Following is the playoff picture entering the season's final nine days. Read it closely.
- **Oakland (10-5) -- The West champion ranks first in the conference because it has a head-to-head victory over the Titans. The top seed would have a first-round bye and home-field advantage through the AFC Championship Game. To clinch it, the Raiders would have to defeat Kansas City (8-7), or have a series of losses or ties by other teams if they lost.
- **Tennessee (9-5) – The South champion. The second seed would have a first-round bye and at least one game at home. The Titans could ensure that by beating Houston (4-11) -- and could move up to the top seed by winning while the Raiders lose or tie, or by tying if Oakland loses.
- Pittsburgh (8-5-1) – The North leader. The third seed would host a Wild Card Game against the AFC's final playoff qualifier, and could host the AFC Championship Game if the top two seeds lost Divisional Playoffs. Remaining: at Tampa Bay (11-3, playing Monday, Dec. 23); Baltimore (7-8). A win in either game, or two ties, or a Cleveland loss or tie would give the Steelers the division title. Two wins coupled with losses by Oakland and Tennessee would elevate Pittsburgh to the first seed.
- Miami (9-6) -- The East leader. The fourth seed would host a Wild Card Game against the conference's top wild card, and could host the AFC Championship Game if the top three seeds had been eliminated. If the Dolphins lose at New England, they could qualify for the second wild card unless the Jets also won or Miami was in a tiebreaker against Kansas City alone. The Dolphins' chance to earn a first-round bye if they win and Oakland and Tennessee lose would go down to at least the fifth tiebreaker (strength of victory).
- Indianapolis (9-6) – The fifth seed could host only the AFC Championship Game, and that only against the lower-ranked wild card. The Colts would earn the first wild card with a win or tie against Jacksonville (6-9). The Colts hold individual tiebreakers over every team that could tie them except Miami, but there could be combinations of teams in which they would not qualify for the second wild card if they lose to the Jaguars.
- Cleveland (8-7) -- The Browns would win a tiebreaker over the Broncos and Jets because of the best conference record (7-5). The sixth seed would play any postseason games on the road. Cleveland also has an individual tiebreaker over the Chargers. Remaining game: Atlanta (9-5-1).
Still in contention
- New York Jets (8-7) -- New York would win a tiebreaker from the Patriots because of a better AFC East record (4-2 to 3-2), and over the Broncos because of a head-to-head victory. The Jets also would win an individual tiebreaker over the Chargers. Remaining: Green Bay (12-3).
- Denver (8-7) -- The Broncos would win a tiebreaker over the Chiefs and Chargers because of the best record head to head (3-1), and over the Patriots because of a head-to-head victory. Denver also would have an individual tiebreaker over KC. Remaining: Arizona (5-10).
- San Diego (8-7) – The Chargers have a tiebreaker over the Chiefs because of a better AFC West record (3-3 to 2-3), and over the Patriots because of a head-to-head win. San Diego would win an individual tiebreaker over the Broncos. Remaining: Seattle (6-9).
- New England (8-7) – The Patriots have a tiebreaker over Kansas City because of a head-to-head win. If they beat Miami and the Jets win, New England would win a wild card if Cleveland, Denver and San Diego lose.
- Kansas City (8-7) -- The Chiefs would win an individual tiebreaker over the Jets
because of a head-to-head victory. KC's individual tiebreaker wins would be over the Dolphins, Browns and Chargers. Remaining: at Oakland (10-5).
- Baltimore (7-8). Think of it this way: If every AFC team with eight wins loses and the Ravens win at Pittsburgh (8-5-1 through Dec. 22), Baltimore would win the second wild card.
Out of it
Buffalo, Cincinnati, Houston and Jacksonville.
*-clinched playoff berth.
**-clinched division title.
***-clinched first-round bye.****-clinched home-field advantage through the AFC Championship Game.