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NFL Playoff Picture 2013: Breaking down the AFC

Does it feel like the playoff jumble in the AFC this year is crazier than ever? Well it should, because statistically, so many teams have never been in contention for a playoff spot this late in the year since the NFL merger. Parity almighty.

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Believe it or not, if the season ended today, the Titans would be the AFC's 6th seed and would be punching their ticket to post-season play for the first time since 2008. This got me thinking, how does Tennessee stack up with the rest of the contenders right now? Well here they are:

Miami Dolphins

Next Opponents: at Jets, at Steelers, Patriots, at Bills, Jets

The Dolphins are a team that doesn't scare me, but at the same time have an easier upcoming slate. Sans New England and a tougher trip to Pittsburgh, they have three winnable divisional games to get them to 8-6. I doubt they do that at this point, as it is pretty tough to sweep divisional rivals in the NFL, especially with a team as inconsistent as the Fins have been this year. I don't think they beat NE or PIT either. I see 8-8 in their future.

Baltimore Ravens

Next Opponents: Steelers, Vikings, at Lions, Patriots, Bengals

The Ravens are a shadow of their playoff form from a year ago, and have some deceptively challenging bouts ahead. Flacco might get hot again, but this Ravens D will need to really step up if they want to notch wins against the Patriots and Lions, even with home field advantage. I think they win the next two, but bottom out the rest of the way to fall to 8-8 with the Bengals delivering the season ending dagger in the final week.

New York Jets

Next Opponents: at Dolphins, Raiders, at Panthers, Browns, Dolphins

It's a little unbelievable that we are even talking about the Jets right now, but here we are. Their two games against the Dolphins might be the difference, as I think they have the strength (on a good day) to take care of the Browns and possibly the Raiders as well. But they are the Jets after all, so I say they split with Miami and fall apart against the Browns to douse the fire once and for all.

San Diego Chargers

Next Opponents: Bengals, Giants, at Broncos, Raiders, Chiefs

The Chargers are an interesting team (cringe) at this point. Rivers (cringe again) put on a show against an injured Chiefs' defense to catapult the Chargers back into relevancy. They have a tough stretch of divisional games to end the year, but winnable games against Cincinnati and New York. If they can put the Raiders down as well and sweep KC (easier said than done), they'll be sitting pretty at 9-7. I think they do it at this point.

Pittsburgh Steelers

Next Opponents: at Ravens, Dolphins, Bengals, at Packers, Browns

Just like the Jets, the Steelers were so pitiful early in the year that I am amazed we are talking about them at the moment. Their game against the Packers looks easier than it did at year's beginning, and a win against Cleveland leaves fate very much in their hands. If they take care of divisional business, they look good for January. Problem is, I don't see that happening. This team has too many holes right now, and the fact that they lose the Tie breaker with Tennessee complicates things for them. I'm seeing 7-9 with wins against the Fins and Packers being their last of the year.

Tennessee Titans

Next Opponents: at Colts, at Broncos, Cardinals, at Jags, Texans

That leaves us with the Titans. These next three games are unenviable, but the Colts are definitely beatable as we have seen. This also plays into my mindset that it is extremely tough to beat the same team twice in one season, which plays into the Titans favor with three of the last five on their schedule. If they take care of business in the division (this time around) riding Fitz's hot streak, that leaves them needing a win in Denver or Arizona, lest they sit at 8-8 and hope fate is kind. If they do snatch a win against either or those teams, they have a good chance of getting in at 9-7 due to the tiebreakers over three other playoff hopefuls.