Your AFC Playoff Contenders, Explained

Who's in? Who's out?

By Drew Magary
|  Friday, Nov 18, 2011  |  Updated 5:08 AM PDT
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Your AFC Playoff Contenders, Explained

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EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - NOVEMBER 13: Mark Sanchez #6 of the New York Jets gets sacked by Andre Carter #93 of the New England Patriots at MetLife Stadium on November 13, 2011 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)

We're getting into late November, and you know what that means: FATTENING, DELICIOUS PLAYOFF IMPLICATIONS. Indeed, the next two months will be a veritable orgy of games with playoff implications. Must-wins. Gotta-wins. Double-must-wins. With that in mind, we thought this would be a good time to run down the playoff contenders in each conference and separate the contenders from the scrap heap. Here we go.

ALIVE WITH PLEASURE

1. New England Patriots

Even though they were impressive against the Jets, I'm still convinced the Patriots have a terrible defense. But teams like New England have a knack for getting away with playing lousy defense and then suddenly getting their act together at the end of the year (see the 2006 Colts and 2010 Packers). And I don't know about you, but I hate it when that happens. I'd prefer those defenses stay terrible so that I can get all smug in the playoffs when they lose and be like, "See? Told you they play bad defense."

2. Pittsburgh Steelers

They have been upgraded in recent weeks from "old" to "cagey". Very important delineation. And now that they have three potential game-breaking wideouts, they will be awfully hard to defend once the playoffs arrive.

3. Baltimore Ravens

They play down to their competition, which is never a good omen for playoff contenders. My guess is that, as long as Joe Flacco is at the helm, the Ravens will always be just good enough to make it no farther than the AFC title game.

PLAYOFF FILLER

4. Houston Texans

Poor kids can't get a break. Just when they seem ready to break through and get their first playoff spot ever, their fate is left in the hands of Matt Leinart. GAHHHHHH! However, the Texans still have the best rushing attack in football, and the their defense remains vastly improved under Wade Phillips. They can still win the South, maybe even a playoff game. Who knows? Maybe Leinart will become the comeback story of the y.... BAHAHAHAHA. I tried to make it through with a poker face but no such luck.

5. New York Jets

With the exception of the Giants, every team left on New York's schedule is reeling. The Jets have a way of jumping to safety jusssst before the ground beneath them gives way. With this playoff field so weak, it can happen for a third straight year.

6. San Diego Chargers

Someone has to win this horrible division. I'll go with the team that has the best point differential of the bunch over Timmy Tebow's little option brigade.

THE BUBBLE

7. Cincinnati Bengals

If the Jets falter, this is the team that gets the six seed. Seeing the Bengals in the playoffs is like seeing the Second Coming. You really need to see it in person in order to be convinced of the possibility.

8. Tennessee Titans

If they win the AFC South, Gary Kubiak is sooo fired.

9. Denver Broncos

Listen, if they make the playoffs, you don't want to stay in America. You will want to leave here as quickly as humanly possible. There's no telling how many cities will be leveled by the "Tim Tebow JUST WINS" tidal wave.

10. Oakland Raiders

Like the Bengals, I just keep waiting for them to turn back into themselves.

11. Buffalo Bills

Awww, but they were so cute back in September!

THE SCRAP HEAP

12. Kansas City Chiefs

Pretty sure that Tyler Palko is also the name of a character on "New Girl".

13. Jacksonville Jaguars

They have a defense AND they have MJD. Don't be shocked if they somehow manage to claw their way to .500.

14. Miami Dolphins

The classic Dead Team Bounce, where a lousy team gets hot late in the season and has you convinced that things are improving. This is an ILLUSION, I assure you.

15. Cleveland Browns

Just so very sad.

16. Indianapolis Colts

Yeah, they're going 0-16.

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