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NFL Playoff Picture: AFC Comes Into Focus

After a Week 13 that saw the New England Patriots crush the New York Jets, 45-3, and the Pittsburgh Steelers nip the Baltimore Ravens, 13-10, there really are not many questions about the AFC playoff picture. At least not nearly as many as there are in the NFC.

The Patriots in the AFC East and the Steelers in the AFC North have established themselves as the best teams in the conference. The AFC South and West look like they will get only one playoff team apiece. In the South, Jacksonville (7-5) looks to have the edge over the reeling Indianapolis Colts (6-6). In the West, Kansas City (8-4) has what should be a comfortable lead over Oakland (6-6) and San Diego (6-6).

That leaves the Jets and Ravens, losers of highly anticipated Week 13 showdowns, as the wild card teams. It also means that, unless something changes, the road to the Super Bowl will go through New England. That, of course, is bad news for the rest of the AFC as the Patriots almost never lose at home.

For the Jets, the question now is whether or not they can recover from Monday night's beating. Or whether they have been exposed as a pretender who has spent the season eking out victories over bad teams.

So, where do we go from here? The good news is that the Jets have a three-game lead in the wild card with four games left to play. It would take a meltdown of epic proportions for the Jets not to make the playoffs. Yet, right now can you really see this team finishing any better than 2-2? How can you expect a team that was so over-matched in New England to go on the road, in the freezing cold and beat the 9-3 Pittsburgh Steelers or the 9-3 Chicago Bears? If you even dare look past that, this team's road to a Super Bowl will ultimately have to go through New England at some point, which is a prospect that is currently impossible to feel confident about.

Only time will tell for the Jets.