With Week 13 in the books, FOX Sports South fearlessly projects and seeds the six participants for the upcoming AFC playoffs. In other words, with the AFC East and South seemingly in control by the Patriots and Colts, we've already done the math on how the AFC West and North will play out. As tight as the North has been, only one team will make the playoffs as another contender benefited from a favorable four-game stretch to cap the season.
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY SportsMark J. Rebilas
#1 Seed - New England Patriots
CURRENT RECORD: 9-3 … GAMES REMAINING: @SD, MIA, @NYJ, BUF … WHY THE PATRIOTS EARN THE #1 SEED: It's become almost fact: Tom Brady can make any combination of tools work if given enough time. The Patriots keep mixing and matching offensive weapons each year and Brady continues to work magic. It helped that tight end Rob Gronkowski got very close to healthy and has become very productive. It also is refreshing to see how a guy like Brandon LaFell can revitalize his career with Brady. Two of New England's roughest games are at home, and even though they must travel to face San Diego, the Patriots haven't lost back-to-back road games since 2013.
Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY SportsChris Humphreys
#2 Seed - Denver Broncos
CURRENT RECORD: 9-3 … GAMES REMAINING: BUF, @SD, @CIN, OAK … WHY THE BRONCOS EARN THE #2 SEED: Everyone knows that Denver can put points on the scoreboard. What's important down the stretch is that the Broncos have a 24.8 points per game average in their six road games this season. With two difficult road games -- San Diego in Week 15 and Cincinnati in Week 16 -- left for Peyton Manning and company, winning on the road can mean the difference between playing on the first weekend of the postseason or enjoying a first-round bye. If Denver can split their remaining road games, and beat both Buffalo and Oakland at home, the No. 2 seed is in the bag.
Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY SportsRon Chenoy
#3 Seed - Indianapolis Colts
CURRENT RECORD: 8-4 … GAMES REMAINING: @CLE, HOU, @DAL, @TEN … WHY THE COLTS EARN THE #3 SEED: Indianapolis has a two-game cushion in the AFC South and is just one game behind the conference leading Broncos and Patriots. Because three of their four games left on the docket are against teams the Colts should match up well against, it should almost be more fun to watch them chase a first-round bye than finish their business in the division. Cleveland, on the road, should pose the biggest test. The Browns play well against the pass. Week 16 in Dallas could get dicey too, but the Colts should take three of their next four.
Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY SportsBrian Spurlock
#4 Seed - Baltimore Ravens
CURRENT RECORD: 7-5 … GAMES REMAINING: @MIA, JAX, @HOU, CLE … WHY THE RAVENS EARN THE #4 SEED: The race for the AFC North is the closest of any contest in the league. All four teams could easily take the divisional crown, and the bottom three are all tied at 7-5, chasing the Bengals, who are a game and a half ahead. Baltimore should take three of their next four games and come out on top of the division, in part because it still gets to play two games against the top-heavy AFC South (the Ravens already played Indianapolis, which is a good team to avoid late in the season). The Ravens' strength (rushing the football) should push them into the playoffs in Week 17, when they get to play the 29th-ranked run defense of Cleveland.
Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY SportsMitch Stringer
#5 Seed - Miami Dolphins
CURRENT RECORD: 7-5 … GAMES REMAINING: BAL, @NE, MIN, NYJ … WHY THE DOLPHINS EARN THE #5 SEED: While everyone is expecting the AFC North to produce at least one wildcard team (possibly two), the Miami Dolphins are going to perform an end-around and blast their way into the playoffs. Traveling to New England isn't going to be fun, and that will likely turn into a loss. But outside of that Week 15 contest, every other game left for the Dolphins is at home, and the final two are against Minnesota and the New York Jets. As December stretches go, Miami has to be smiling about this one.
Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY SportsChris Humphreys
#6 Seed - San Diego Chargers
CURRENT RECORD: 7-5 … GAMES REMAINING: NE, DEN, @SF, @KC … WHY THE CHARGERS EARN THE #6 SEED: San Diego does not have an easy life as the season winds down. While the Chargers host New England and Denver (talk about painful), they must travel on their final two weekends of the season. And the two road trips will be uncomfortable for the folks that normally enjoy 75-degree weather non-stop. If the Chargers can split their two home games (they are 5-1 at home this season) and then win at least one of their road games (San Francisco and Kansas City) to finish the season, their 10-6 record will get them into the playoffs as the No. 6 seed.