Can we talk about last night?
Everything feels possible for Baltimore right now. Following wacky victories over the Steelers and Vikings, last night's triumph over the Lions was just another notch on the belt of this team's oddly beautiful campaign:
That was Baltimore's least-crazy ending of the last 3 weeks.â gregg rosenthal (@greggrosenthal) December 17, 2013
The Bengals -- arguably the third best team in this division right now -- are on the brink.
Anyone interested in home field? Anyone?
The top spot in the AFC is up for grabs after Denver, New England and Cincinnati cratered hard in Week 15:
When it comes to the No. 1 seed, we'd be stunned if Denver (11-3) doesn't nail it to the floor with games against the Texans and Raiders to close out the schedule. The Patriots (10-4) need the Broncos to drop one of those two tilts (while sweeping the Ravens and Bills) to reroute the postseason through New England.
... the battle for No. 2
I don't see it happening. Sunday night's implosion confirmed my worst fears about Cincinnati. They've been a good home team, but no squad in the playoff race is more prone to shrinking in a big spot.
While we're at it, even the Colts are alive for the bye. If (a) Indy were to win out and finish 11-5; (b) Cincy were to go 1-1 over the next two weeks; and (c) New England were to drop one of its final two matchups, the Colts would own the conference-record tiebreaker over the Patriots at the final gun.
But let's hop out of fantasy land, shall we?
Sixth-seed chase far from over
The final playoff spot in the AFC is bound to go down to the wire.
The Ravens and Dolphins -- both 8-6 -- currently lead the way, with Baltimore owning the tiebreaker after beating Miami in Week 5. If Baltimore wins the North, there's a scenario in which the Dolphins actually could hop over the eliminated Bengals for the AFC's final playoff spot.
San Diego (7-7) remains an intriguing outlier and can't be dismissed after slamming Denver on Thursday.
I'd disregard any team without a legitimate passer, but that's what makes this race for No. 6 so intriguing: Joe Flacco is magic, Philip Rivers is reborn and Ryan Tannehill's toughness behind a junky line is underrated.
Best of the West?
Just for giggles: Kansas City still has a shot to overtake the Broncos inside the division if Peyton Manning and friends fall to Houston or Oakland and the Chiefs run the table. Don't hold your breath.
In and out
Looking ahead to Week 16
New England Patriots at Baltimore Ravens: Suddenly, a game with massive implications in the AFC.
Oakland Raiders at San Diego Chargers: San Diego, you have our attention.
Indianapolis Colts at Kansas City Chiefs: Chatter about Indy earning a bye likely to be reduced to utter nonsense by Sunday night.
Miami Dolphins at Buffalo Bills: Buffalo's a tough out at home, and the team's defense is legit. Not a gimme for Miami.
Minnesota Vikings at Cincinnati Bengals: Lose this one, and Cincy's in boiling hot water.