The Tennessee Titans currently hold the final wild-card spot in the AFC. The Titans are 5-6. They've lost five of seven. They are 0-3 in their division. Three weeks ago they lost to the Jacksonville Jaguars. They are quarterbacked by Ryan Fitzpatrick. Titans: playoff team.
But the Titans don't have it locked up quite yet. Five other AFC teams are tripping and falling right at their heels at 5-6: the Steelers, Ravens, Chargers, Jets and Dolphins. Three more teams -- Raiders, Browns, Bills -- are in contention at 4-7.
It's an ugly scene.
Chances are one of these teams will finish strong, and 9-7 or 8-8 will win the final spot. But where's the fun in that? No one remembers 9-7 or 8-8 playoff teams. Who were the wild-card teams last year? Who knows. Who cares. They're forgotten. But we do remember the historic 2010 Seahawks team that made the playoffs at 7-9. They'll live forever for failing their way to success.
That's why it's exciting that the AFC could give us our first 6-10 playoff team. We could be witnessing history. As sports fans, that's why we watch. We want to be shocked and amazed. Even by failure. A pick-six can be as exhilarating as a Hail Mary. That's why we should all be rooting for the scenario that gives us an eight-way tie for the final AFC wild-card spot among 6-10 teams.
Here's how it would happen:
• The Titans and Chargers both finish 1-4 and complete the regular season at 6-10.
• The Steelers lose to the Ravens on Thanksgiving night, beat the Dolphins in Week 14, and then lose out, including a Week 17 loss to the Browns, to finish 6-10.
• The Ravens beat the Steelers on Thanksgiving and then lose out to end the season at 6-10.
• The Jets beat the Dolphins this week, and then lose their last four, including games to the Raiders and Browns, and to the Dolphins in the season finale, to finish at 6-10.
• The Dolphins lose their next four games in a row - including games to the Jets and Steelers - and then win in Week 17 over the Jets to get to 6-10.
If all this happens, the Titans, Steelers, Ravens, Chargers, Jets and Dolphins will all finish at 6-10, while the Raiders and Browns would also get to six wins.
What would be the tie-breaking procedure for an eight-way tie at 6-10? Who knows. Probably whichever franchise wouldn't be humiliated by making the playoffs at 6-10 would get the spot. (So the Browns, Raiders or Jets.)
After that would come a humiliating blowout defeat in the playoffs, an exit befitting a lousy 6-10 team. Right? Wrong. Peyton Manning's career wouldn't be complete without a loss at home in the playoffs to a 6-10 team.
Quote of the Week
"We suck." -- Andre Johnson, Houston Texans wide receiver
Last week Johnson had this to say when asked if he planned to stick around for the inevitable Texans rebuild: "I'm under contract, so I have to play my contract out. I can't do anything about that."
It's true. Johnson is stuck with the Texans through the 2016 season. But after that, he'll be free to pursue his gift for motivational speaking.
He could sell inspirational books: "Chicken Soup for the Realist: Chicken Soup is Salty and Could Lead to Heart Disease."
He could help write slogans for political campaigns: "A Fresh Start in 2016. Then a Quick Return to Disappointment and Failure."
Or he could pursue a career in medicine: "The tests came back. You're probably going to die. Not that it matters. We're all going to die eventually, right?"
Stat of the Week
Brandon Weeden's completions and attempts for the season? Incorrect. Good guess, but incorrect. Geno Smith's? Wrong again. That's the record of NFL teams over the past 50 years when trailing by 24 or more points at the half. Congratulations to the Patriots and especially to Bill Belichick for calling that punt into that guy.
This Week's Horrible Fantasy Team That Crushed Your Team
Alex Smith, QB, Chiefs -- 26-for-38, 294 yards, 3 TD, INT
Danny Woodhead, RB, Chargers -- 70 total yards, 2 TD
Benny Cunningham, RB, Rams -- 13 carries, 109 yards, TD
Tiquan Underwood, WR, Buccaneers -- 3 catches, 108 yards, 2 TD
Mike Wallace, WR, Dolphins -- 5 catches, 127 yards, TD
Brandon Myers, TE, Giants -- 3 catches, 39 yards, TD
Photos of the Week
Press Conference Questions Someone Should Have Asked
Rob Chudzinski: "While it may look easy to the outside observer, how hard has it been as a new coach to maintain your franchise's identity and culture of losing?"
Gus Bradley: "Do you realize that beating the Texans will likely cause you to lose the No. 1 overall pick? And a follow up: Are you prepared to resign right now?"
Jack Del Rio: "In the interests of entertainment, for the rest of this press conference can you please act like Bill Belichick would have acted after losing a game in which he had a 24-0 lead?"
Reader Twitter Question of the Week
@DJGalloESPN If you don't have a sister what can you relate a tie to?
- Derrick Paul (@D_PaulSoHard) November 24, 2013
A good question. And if I may, the one major problem I have with European football is the amount of sister-kissing it requires. I like my sisters and everything, but for the good of the sport and the good of society, let's have some definitive, non-incestuous outcomes.
Now, as for those who don't have sisters, there are two examples that might work.
1. Kissing your best friend's sister. It may seem momentarily pleasurable, but you're going to get punched in the very near future.
2. Kissing the supermodel/actress of your choice. But she has a gaping herpes sore on her lip and she just ate a bag of Cool Ranch Doritos and a block of Limburger cheese.
Hope that helps.
Forced Sports/Pop Culture Reference in Hopes of Sounding Cool
The AFC wild-card race could end up being more gruesome than the season finale of HBO's "Boardwalk Empire." And how about that cat bikini Miley Cyrus wore at the AMAs? Speaking of cats, the Panthers and Lions seem to be going in different directions. And then there's the new "The Hunger Games: Catching Fire" movie, which stars Jennifer Lawrence, who was also in "Silver Linings Playbook," which was loosely related to NFL football so, yeah, it's all amazingly related and relevant to Week 12's on-the-field action.
Weak Sports Take of the Week
Tony Romo showed he can win important games by leading a late drive to beat the Giants. Of course, if Dan Bailey had missed the game-winning kick, Romo's efforts would have been for naught. And the Cowboys are only 6-5, and he still has just one playoff win in his entire career. That said, he won Sunday, so the question will be asked: Has Tony Romo taken the next step? Oh, my, I have no idea. Maybe. Possibly. But perhaps not. It's way too early to make evaluations like that. I guess we'll all just have to watch the rest of the season. Just be patient, OK? Great.
Five Things I Thought to Think While Thinking Thoughts
1. I watched a little bit of the Grey Cup on Sunday night. I always forget that the CFL is a real football league and not just an entity that exists to offer Hollywood cheap football footage to have on TVs in scenes in which characters are supposed to be watching football. In fact, maybe that's a slogan they should consider. The CFL: Not Just for Hollywood Stock Football Footage.
2. Several Packers players admitted after their tie with the Vikings that they thought there would be a second overtime period. "I thought we was gonna go to another overtime. I never knew," said starting tight end Andrew Quarless. That is pathetic. Not that they didn't know the rules of the game. I mean that they believed a Vikings-Packers game, quarterbacked by Christian Ponder and Matt Flynn, could have potentially gone on forever. Imagine trying to face a future like that. It would be the depths of human misery.
3. Jason Campbell was knocked out of the Browns-Steelers game on a hit similar to the one on Drew Brees last week that caused San Francisco's Ahmad Brooks to get penalized and fined. Except the hit on Campbell didn't draw a flag. That will teach Campbell not to be a famous quarterback who is in commercials. He really messed up by not doing that.
4. That reminds me: Mike Glennon really blew it by not getting drafted in the first round. In addition to winning three in a row and having 13 touchdown passes and just four interceptions in eight games, he has a 91.6 quarterback rating and a 62.5 completion percentage for the season - putting him ahead of Andrew Luck, Cam Newton and RGIII. Yet I've not seen a single article about Glennon revolutionizing football or being the new quarterback prototype. Someone should hit him for being so stupid. Don't worry. You won't get a penalty.
5. Just saying: Tim Tebow quarterbacked the Denver Broncos in the cold in New England less than two years ago and he didn't blow a lead. Facts are facts. "Yeah, but when he played there the Broncos never had the..." SHUT UP. I gave you a FACT. You look stupid trying to debate me.
How They Spent Their Bye Week
Seahawks: Making children cry.
Bengals: Catching up on pop culture.