Baltimore's frenzied 18-16 win over the Detroit Lions all but reshaped fortunes in the AFC North, where the Ravens (8-6) now sit only one game back of the Bengals with two weeks to go.
The task for the Ravens is clear. Baltimore can leapfrog the Bengals for the division crown by beating the Patriotson Sunday and deep-sixing Cincy in the regular-season finale.
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.
San Diego (7-7) remains an intriguing outlier and can't be dismissed after slamming Denver on Thursday.
On NFL Network
will re-air the Miami Dolphins' 24-20 win over the New England Patriots from Week 15 on Tuesday, Dec. 17 at 3:30 p.m. ET.
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
Indianapolis Colts at Kansas City Chiefs: Chatter about Indy earning a bye likely to be reduced to utter nonsense by Sunday night.
Denver Broncos at Houston Texans: Denver's wiggle room in the division has shriveled up, but the Texans won't put up much of a fight.
Miami Dolphins at Buffalo Bills: Buffalo's a tough out at home, and the team's defense is legit. Not a gimme for Miami.