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Final AFC playoff spot a three-team race: Titans, Steelers, Raiders all in it

NFL: DEC 22 Raiders at Chargers

CARSON, CA - DECEMBER 22: Oakland Raiders Quarterback Derek Carr (4) celebrates with the fans as he walks off the field during an NFL game between the Oakland Raiders and the Los Angeles Chargers on December 22, 2019, at Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, CA. (Photo by Chris Williams/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Heading into today, the Titans and Steelers appeared to be locked in battle for the final AFC playoff spot. But today the Raiders emerged as a real threat.

Because the Titans and Steelers both lost, the Raiders won, and some other results that can help the Raiders’ tiebreaker chances fell Oakland’s way, it’s now a three-team race for the final AFC playoff spot heading into Week 17.

If the Titans beat the Texans in Week 17, they clinch the playoff spot.

If the Titans lose and the Steelers beat the Ravens in Week 17, the Steelers get the playoff spot.

But if the Titans and Steelers both lose, that’s where things get interesting. If both teams lose, the Raiders beat the Broncos and the Colts beat the Jaguars, the Raiders are probably in the playoffs. The only thing that could keep the Raiders out in that scenario is a very complex combination of results that would give the Steelers the strength of victory tiebreaker over the Raiders.

This is the combination of results that would almost certainly put the Raiders in the postseason:

1. Raiders beat Broncos.
2. Texans beat Titans.
3. Ravens beat Steelers.
4. Colts beat Jaguars.

None of those results are farfetched at all, although all of them happening simultaneously may be a tall order -- especially since the Ravens and Texans may decide to rest their starters against the Steelers and Titans. Ultimately, the Titans are the team that controls its own destiny, and the Steelers are the team with the best chance to capitalize if the Titans lose. But no one should count out the Raiders.