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Key AFC games in Week 13

The final stretch of the National Football League season is upon us. We have entered December and with only five regular-season weeks remaining on the docket, teams are beginning to be hit with the proverbial whip, trying to make a strong push toward the postseason.

In the AFC, the divisions are all but sewn up sans the AFC South. In the East, the New England Patriots are absolutely rolling to the division title, sitting at 10-1 and four games clear of the second-place New York Jets. The North sees the Cincinnati Bengals running away with the gaggle, three games ahead of the Pittsburgh Steelers. The West has the Denver Broncos three games in front of the Kansas City Chiefs, who suddenly has become the hottest team in the conference.

The Chiefs were 1-5 and looking like a group ready to go into a long winter, but they have stormed back over the last five contests. Kansas City is on a five-game winning streak and now sits in the conference’s fifth seed, holding head-to-head tiebreakers over the Houston Texans and Pittsburgh Steelers.

This Sunday, the Chiefs visit the Oakland Raiders at O.co Coliseum, who are sitting in dire straights. Oakland is 5-6 and coming off a win over the Tennessee Titans. A loss would drop the Raiders all but out of postseason contention, while a win would actually vault it into second place above Kansas City via tiebreaker.

Meanwhile, there is a huge game taking place at Ralph Wilson Stadium. Buffalo is clinging to life at 5-6 and hosts Houston, which is 6-5 and currently in the sixth and final AFC wild card spot. Should the Texans win, the Bills would lose the tiebreakers to both Houston and Kansas City, while trailing both straight-up in the standings.

Whoever wins that game will be feeling very good about its chances toward the AFC playoffs, while the loser could be staring at a tough task moving forward.

On Sunday night, the Pittsburgh Steelers and Indianapolis Colts tangle at Heinz Field. Pittsburgh and Indianapolis are both 6-5, making this game critical. Ben Roethlisberger sustained a concussion on Sunday against the Seattle Seahawks, so his status is up in the air. The Colts already know they will be playing with backup quarterback Matt Hasselbeck, who is playing great football. Hasselbeck is 4-0 as the starter and has Indianapolis leading the AFC South.

With only five weeks to go, the AFC playoff picture is going to get more insane before it calms down. It seems that the league is more unpredictable than ever, something embodied by the wild card race this season, where a pair of teams left for dead only weeks ago are now driving toward postseason football.

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