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New York Jets in position to land AFC playoff spot

This is what we know about the AFC playoff picture as we enter the season's final seven weeks:

The playoff picture


How would your team's prospects look if the season ended today? See where each team stands in the playoff picture midway through the season. **More ...**

The Kansas City Chiefs (9-0), Denver Broncos (8-1), and New England Patriots (7-2) are virtual locks for The Dance. Football Outsiders puts New England's chance of qualifying for the postseason at 96.5 percent. The Chiefs and Broncos are each listed at 99.9 percent. Barring a rogue meteor or elaborate Tom Brady bullying probe, these teams are safe.

The Indianapolis Colts (6-3) and Cincinnati Bengals (6-4) also are in good position. Indy has a 91.3 percent chance of qualifying, while Cincinnati currently sits at 90.4 percent. Both teams have lost key personnel and are coming off ugly losses. Still, they're better than their division rivals. Book 'em.

Four division winners will take the first four seeds. The runner-up of the AFC West (Denver or Kansas City) likely will slide into the No. 5 seed. Then things get murky. Like, Meadowlands swamp murky.

A credible case can be made for seven teams to claim the sixth and final playoff spot. The "Around The League Podcast" broke down the wide-open race in our latest episode, and now we'll do it here.

(If you missed our breakdown of the NFC playoff race last week, click on in.)

Truthfully, the Pittsburgh Steelers don't really deserve consideration here. They're 3-6 and have been allergic to extended success. Still, Ben Roethlisberger is involved and the schedule is filled with winnable division games down the stretch. I'd feel weird completely discounting them, so here they are. Congrats guys.

The 4-5 Miami Dolphins are hemorrhaging respect these days, thanks to the 1-2 punch of Jonathan Martin madness and a Monday night loss to the previously winless Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Miami is a Sunday loss to the San Diego Chargers away from going into catastrophic meltdown mode.

The Browns (4-5) are frisky, and the swap of Brandon Weeden for Jason Campbell allows us to take Cleveland football seriously. Beat the Bengals on Sunday and the AFC North gets turned upside down.

As for the 4-5 Titans? Yes, losing to the Jaguars (at home) was as grim as it gets, but don't forget that Ryan Fitzpatrick once strung together enough strong performances to fool the Bills into giving him a $60 million contract. Jake Locker's foot injury doesn't necessarily end Tennessee's season.

If the Chargers (4-5) get to nine wins this season, they'll have earned it. San Diego has the toughest schedule of any sixth-seed contender, with a sked that includes a home matchup against the Bengals, a road trip to Denver, and two games with the Chiefs. Good luck with all that.

The Baltimore Ravens (4-5) got one they absolutely had to have against the Bengals on Sunday, but they're here more on reputation than actual achievement in 2013. We trust Joe Flacco will improve on his middling play, but will Ray Rice still be pulling his "snowsuit" act in December? If so, the Ravens are cooked.

Rex Ryan delivered a motivational masterstroke when he told his players before the start of the season that ESPN had ranked the Jets dead last in its preseason power rankings. Ryan's team has made good use of that chip on its shoulder and enter Week 11 at 5-4 -- one full game ahead of all other sixth-seed contenders.

This is far from a perfect team. The Jets have yet to win consecutive games, they're not far removed from a brutal beatdown in Cincinnati and the Genocoaster will ride on through the holiday season. But there are also impressive wins over the Patriots and Saints, and a new identity built around a dynamic and young defensive line.

Can the "Sons of Anarchy" carry the Jets all the way to the playoffs? The thought was insane in August. Now, not so much.

The latest "Around The League Podcast" previewed "Thursday Night Football" and "stuck a fork" in the Bills' 2013 chances.

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