It's fitting that the race for the sixth seed in the AFC will be decided this way.
The first five playoff spots in the conference have been solid most of the season, and the sixth has been a mess for weeks. Nobody has gotten any separation. Even when a team in the race has a huge win, it falls back to the pack soon enough.
Last week, Miami and Baltimore had huge, dramatic wins. And on Sunday, they each took a step back and opened the AFC wild-card race up again heading into the final week of the regular season.
San Diego and Pittsburgh won in the late games to stay alive. The Chargers, Ravens and Dolphins are all tied at 8-7 going into the final week. The Steelers are 7-8 and improbably still barely alive for a berth.
The wild-card race isn't pretty, but it's interesting.
Miami lost at Buffalo early Sunday in a truly ugly game. The offensive line barely blocked for quarterback Ryan Tannehill, who was briefly knocked from the game. He was 10-of-27 for 82 yards. The Dolphins lost 19-0.
Baltimore, coming off a great Monday night win at Detroit, was no better. The Ravens fell behind New England early and the offense did almost nothing in a terribly disappointing 41-7 loss.
Those brutal losses by the front-runners make Week 17 very, very interesting in the AFC.
Not only is the sixth seed wide open, but none of the division winners know their seed yet. Three division titles were clinched on Sunday. New England won the East with Miami's loss, Denver won the West thanks to a win and a Kansas City loss, and the Bengals won the North because of their win and the Ravens' loss. But the Broncos haven't clinched the No. 1 seed yet, and the Patriots haven't clinched the No. 2 seed and a bye either, but can with a win next week. New England would get the top seed with a win and a Broncos loss, but the Bengals or Colts could still move up to the No. 2 seed if the Patriots lose. And the Colts or Bengals could end up as the No. 3 seed, and thereby avoid playing at the No. 1 seed in the second round.
In the wild-card race, the most obvious way to determine a winner is if one of the 8-7 teams wins and the other two lose. San Diego plays Kansas City, Baltimore plays at Cincinnati and Miami plays the Jets.
If there's a two-team tie, the Chargers would lose the tiebreaker to the Dolphins or Ravens. The Ravens have the tiebreaker over the Dolphins. If those three teams all tie for the final spot, the Dolphins win the tiebreaker.
The Steelers are also mathematically alive, but would need all three teams a game ahead of them to lose, and to beat the Browns in Week 17.
The way the race for the sixth seed has been muddled all season, it shouldn't be much surprise that four teams could still grab it going into the final week of the season.
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