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A look at the final five


MIAMI—They are five teams competing for two playoff spots. The Jaguars are tied with the Bengals, Broncos, Chiefs and Jets at 7-5 each.

Which team has the advantage? Do any of them have an advantage?

The Broncos are in a late-season funk. Their situation at quarterback is dicey and circumstances are only like to worsen in San Diego next weekend. The Broncos then finish with games at Arizona and at home against Cincinnati and San Francisco. Clearly, Denver is not at an advantage.

What about the other four teams? Which team or teams have the edge?

The Jets clearly have the scheduling advantage. They host Buffalo next Sunday, then travel to Minnesota and Miami before finishing at home against Oakland. There are no winning records among the Jets' final four opponents.

Yeah, give the Jets the edge. They would seem to have the best chance to get to 10 wins, and they have a finishing schedule that could even get them to 11.

The Chiefs have a difficult but manageable finishing schedule. They host Baltimore, then travel to San Diego and Oakland before hosting the Jaguars in the regular-season finale.

It's a finishing schedule that could get the Chiefs to 10 wins, but it's doubtful they could reach 11. Their game in San Diego is a run-killer.

The Bengals' recent run should continue next weekend against visiting Oakland, but then the Bengals face three rugged tests: at Indianapolis, at Denver and at home against arch-rival Pittsburgh.

In all likelihood, Indianapolis will still be playing for homefield advantage when they face the Bengals. Denver, obviously, will be motivated, and the Steelers have forever been the Bengals' greatest tormentor.

The finishing schedule does not favor the Bengals, but the Bengals may be playing at the highest level of the five teams vying for the final two AFC playoff spots. The Bengals are on a roll. They have a hot quarterback and a defense that's playing its best football since Marvin Lewis became the team's head coach.

Beware of the Bengals, not just in the final month of the season, but in the postseason, too. That is this reporter's opinion and it's based on the look of a team that has a late-season gleam in its eye.

Then there are the Jaguars. There's nothing to like about their finishing schedule: Indianapolis, at Tennessee, New England and at Kansas City. How would you like to have to beat Peyton Manning and Tom Brady to make the playoffs?

The Jaguars, however, have some major advantages in their bid to grab one of the wild-card spots: 1.) A strong defense. 2.) A power running game. 3.) A quarterback in ascent. 4.) A win over the Jets. 5.) A head-on clash with the Chiefs that could produce the ultimate tie-breaker.

So who are your picks?

This truly is a pick 'em. This is final-month-of-the-season drama at its best. Give me the Jaguars and Chiefs on the final night of the season in a do-or-die game for both teams. That would be the ultimate in drama.

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