It was Ferris Bueller who taught us, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”
The same is true of the AFC playoff race.
After each of their last three games the Tennessee Titans’ place in the wild card chase has changed. Take a look, though, following Sunday’s 23-19 victory over the Oakland Raiders they were 5-6 and – based on a tiebreaker with five other teams – the ones in line for the second wild card and the last of the conference’s six playoff spots.
“… You see how hard it is for teams to win when you have a bunch of us – six of us or seven of us – with the same record in the AFC,” coach Mike Munchak said Monday. “Teams are going through the same thing, teams are playing each other. There’s a lot of things that can happen over the next five weeks, but we know if we keep winning, then we’re going to stay in the middle of it.”
A look at which AFC teams currently are 5-6 (in order based on tiebreaking protocols) and what they have on tap in the coming weeks:
Tennessee (4-4 conference, 0-3 division)
Up next: at Indianapolis
On deck: at Denver
What to know: The Titans are one of two (San Diego is the other) that won’t face at least one of the other 5-6 teams between now and the finish. However, their next three are against teams that are 7-4 or better so their hold atop this group is perilous, to say the least.
Pittsburgh (4-4 conference, 2-1 division)
Up next: at Baltimore
On deck: vs. Miami
What to know: The Steelers have a golden opportunity to help themselves the next two weeks with games against other 5-6 teams. Three of their final four are at home capped by a visit from Cleveland on the final weekend.
Baltimore (5-4 conference, 2-2 division)
Up next: vs. Pittsburgh
On Deck: vs. Minnesota
What to know: The Ravens’ final two contests are against New England (home) and Cincinnati (road), teams that are comfortably atop their divisions at present and might have little to play for – or reasons to play their starters – in those matchups.
San Diego (3-5 conference, 1-2 division)
Up next: vs. Cincinnati
On deck: vs. N.Y. Giants
What to know: Four of the Chargers’ remaining five are at home, and the final three are against their three AFC West rivals. They should, therefore, enjoy a great deal of comfort with the familiar setting and opponents.
New York Jets (2-6 conference, 2-2 division)
Up next: vs. Miami
On deck: vs. Oakland
What to know: Not only do the Jets play Miami twice in the remaining five weeks they also face 4-7 Oakland and 4-7 Cleveland (both at home). It is possible, therefore, that something will be at stake every week from here to the finish.
Miami (4-3 conference, 0-2 division)
Up next: at N.Y. Jets
On deck: at Pittsburgh
What to know: Six of the Dolphins’ last seven games have been decided by four points or fewer, and four of their remaining five are against division opponents, who know them well.