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NFL Playoff Picture 2017: Predicting the AFC playoff bracket heading into Week 17

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USA Today Sports

NFL Playoff Picture 2017: Predicting the AFC playoff bracket heading into Week 17

The final week for NFL teams to make their playoff dreams come true is here.

A lot of those dreams were broken in Week 16, but a few spots are up for grabs.

The NFL has moved several games with playoff implications from 1:00 p.m. ET to 4:25 p.m. ET, including Bengals-Ravens, Bills-Dolphins and Jaguars-Titans.

Let's take a look at the AFC playoff picture heading into Week 17.

Thanks to our guy, Joe Ferreira, for the help.

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AFC PLAYOFF BRACKET PROJECTION:

#1 New England Patriots (12-3) vs. lowest winning seed from AFC Wild Card round

#2 Pittsburgh Steelers (12-3) vs. highest winning seed from AFC Wild Card round

#3 Jacksonville Jaguars (10-5) vs. #6 Tennessee Titans (8-7)

#4 Kansas City Chiefs (9-6) vs. #5 Baltimore Ravens (9-6)

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (#1 seed)
Record/Division Record:
12-3/4-1
Remaining Games: vs. Jets (5-10)
Playoff Scenarios: The Bills gave the Patriots a run for their money Sunday, but Tom Brady and company came out on top. They've clinched the AFC East and a first-round bye.

Clinch home-field advantage throughout playoffs:
-Win OR

-Steelers loss OR

-Tie + Steelers tie

PITTSBURGH STEELERS (#2 seed)
Record/Division Record:
12-3/5-0
Remaining Games: vs. Browns (0-15)
Playoff Scenarios: The Steelers just blew out the Texans 34-6 and have another easy week ahead of them against the Browns. They've clinched the AFC North and a first-round bye.

Clinch home-field advantage throughout playoffs:

-Win + Patriots loss or tie OR

-Tie + Patriots loss

JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS (#3 seed)
Record/Division Record:
 10-5/4-1
Remaining Games: @Titans (8-7)
Playoff Scenarios: The Jags went into Jimmy G's territory and lost an unexpected one.

The No. 3 seed still belongs to them, but with the Steelers' massive win over the Texans, they lost any chance of having a bye week.

Now they just wait and see who they will be facing in the wild card round.

KANSAS CITY CHIEFS (#4 seed)
Record/Division Record:
9-6/4-1
Remaining Games: @Broncos (5-10)
Playoff Scenarios: Week 16 brought an easy 29-13 win over the Dolphins and Week 17 against the Broncos should bring the same.

The Chiefs have secured the No. 4 seed and it seems like a safe bet to say they'll be facing the No. 5 seeded Ravens in the wild card round.

BALTIMORE RAVENS (#5 seed)
Record/Division Record:
 9-6/3-2
Remaining Games: vs. Bengals (6-9)
Playoff Scenarios: The Ravens are in control of their own destiny; get a win and you're in. If that doesn't work, there are some options.

Clinch playoff berth:

-Win or tie OR

-Bills loss or tie OR

-Titans loss or tie

TENNESSEE TITANS (#6 seed)
Record/Division Record:
8-7/4-1
Remaining Games: vs Jaguars (10-5)
Playoff Scenarios: The Titans have fallen in the rankings after losing at home to the Rams and Sunday's game against the Jaguars could knock them out completely.

Clinch playoff berth:

-Win OR

-Tie + Bills loss or tie +Chargers loss or tie OR

-Bills loss + Chargers loss

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STILL IN THE HUNT:

7. LOS ANGELES CHARGERS
Record/Division Record:
 8-7/2-3
Remaining Games: vs. Raiders (6-8)
Playoff Scenarios: The Chargers have risen in the rankings and with some help from the Titans, they could slide into the No. 6 seed.

Clinch playoff berth: 

-Win +Titans loss or tie + Bills loss or tie OR

-Win + Titans loss or tie + Ravens win or tie OR

-Tie + Titans loss + Bills loss or tie

8. BUFFALO BILLS
Record/Division Record:
8-7/2-3
Remaining Games: @ Dolphins (6-8)
Playoff Scenarios: The Bills' foreseen loss to the Patriots made them fall all the way to the No. 8 seed. They can get into the playoffs, but they are going to need some help.

Clinch playoff berth:

-Win + Ravens loss OR

-Win + Chargers loss or tie + Titans loss or tie OR

-Tie + Chargers loss + Titans loss

ELIMINATED: 

New York Jets, Cincinnati Bengals, Denver Broncos, Houston Texans, Indianapolis Colts, Cleveland Browns, Miami Dolphins and the Oakland Raiders.

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After breakout 2017 season, Ravens running back Alex Collins isn't getting too comfortable

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After breakout 2017 season, Ravens running back Alex Collins isn't getting too comfortable

This time last year, running back Alex Collins wasn't a part of the Baltimore Ravens.

After being released by the Seattle Seahawks at the end of the 2017 preseason, the Ravens placed the 23-year-old on their practice squad, and by Week 2, Collins was already making plays.

As the season progressed, Collins found himself as the Ravens' top running back. He finished 2017 as the team's leading rusher with 973 yards while Javorius "Buck" Allen followed behind him with 591 yards.

If the 2018 NFL season began today, Collins would likely be the Ravens' starter, which is quite ironic considering the fate of his 2017 preseason.

"I always go back to where I started and where I am now, and I use that as my motivation," Collins said after Thursday's training camp practice.

"No matter the day, no matter how tired I am, I think to myself, at this time last year, I didn’t know my position, where I was, where I’d end up. So just having that security behind it is definitely my motivation to keep it this way and keep pushing forward and keep trying to get better instead of being complacent.”

Over the course of 15 games, Collins proved he had the strength and speed to make an impact on the team after Danny Woodhead suffered a hamstring injury on the first drive of the Ravens' Week 1 game and Kenneth Dixon sat out the entire season with a torn meniscus. 

While job security is something we all strive for, Collins isn't getting too comfortable with the hierarchy. 

“I don’t want to say necessarily ‘comfortable,’ because when I use that word, it makes me feel like I’m too relaxed and lackadaisical," Collins said.

"I’m more focused. I don’t want to get comfortable. I don’t want the team or our group to get comfortable, because we just want to get better every day. So, in the position I am, it’s a great feeling, but I’m always pushing myself to be better.”

While Collins has set personal goals for himself – like a 1,000-yard season – he is equally as focused on making the Ravens backfield one of the best groups in the National Football League. 

“I expect that," Collins said on being the Ravens' starter.

"I would hope that all the other running backs expect [to be the starter] as well, and that’s what kind of drives our group – when we all know that we have that capability to be the No. 1 guy, and we’re out competing and push each other and try to be the best. No matter who’s out there during the game, you’ll see a productive play out of that person. So, I have that mindset. I want to be the guy. I have that fire in me, and I hope [that is] as well as the other running backs, as I encouraged them as well.”

Collins noted that he's coming into training camp a bit heavier. He added five pounds to his 200-pound frame "just to see how that feels," but is still maintaining the stamina and strength he's always had. 

Collins – who was one of several veterans released from practice early as the team begins to adjust their way into the extended preseason – finished his media availability with a friendly warning to fantasy football owners: "Draft me now before it’s too late, guys."

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Joe Flacco receives high praise from teammates after first training camp practice

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USA TODAY Sports

Joe Flacco receives high praise from teammates after first training camp practice

Ravens football is back and so is Joe Cool.

The team’s first training camp practice took place Thursday afternoon, and Joe Flacco’s teammates – from offensive to defensive players – mentioned how laser focused the 10-year veteran is.

"Joe always has a lot of personality,” running back Alex Collins said via SB Nation’s Baltimore Beatdown.

“He is a good guy. He’s a real funny guy, but definitely coming into this year, he has a lot of fire behind him. And it does a lot motivating us especially early when we first reported back. Just seeing him work hard and just seeing him get better every day. He’s definitely got a lot of fire behind him this year.”

Flacco is entering the final year of his contract with a lot on the line following a disappointing start to the 2017 season. But a huge factor that is different for the 33-year old coming into this preseason opposed to last is his health.

“Most definitely,” Collins said on whether he can tell if Flacco is healthier this year. “He’s a lot faster as well, by the way, guys.”

And when it comes to the “Is Joe Flacco elite” debate, linebacker C.J. Mosley knows the consensus within the Under Armour Performance Center.

“I think every year [Joe Flacco] comes in with his mindset that he wants to be great,” Mosley said.

“Mainly because everybody outside of this building does not think he is elite and inside the building, everybody does think that way. Since Joe has been here, you know he is one of those players that never gets rattled. You never see his emotions too high, too low. He’s been our quarterback that kinda stays in the middle to make sure everything goes smooth. That’s kinda how he has been this offseason too. He’s come in looking strong, body looking good.”

Flacco’s health is up to speed as well as his mentality. Flacco organized private workouts with his wide receivers and tight ends at a local park across from the Ravens’ facility last week. This is the first time he has done so since 2011. When asked if he initiated the session, Michael Crabtree gave all the credit to his new quarterback.

“No, that’s all Flac [Flacco], man,” Crabtree said. “That’s the leader. We’re just the wideouts. [We] do whatever he says. If we’ve got something we bring to the table, then we make it work.”

 

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