Mark Sanchez and the Jets need a win over the Broncos Thursday to stay close to the playoff race. (Cal Sport Media)
The hapless Indianapolis Colts already were knocked out of the AFC South race last Sunday, when they lost to Jacksonville and first-place Houston beat Tampa Bay. Now, they're dangerously close to being eliminated from the playoff picture entirely, the first team to officially be knocked from contention.
But with each elimination, we move one step closer to figuring out the playoff field. With seven weeks left in the regular season, there are more than 20 teams still with a legitimate shot to reach the postseason.
Here's how things stand heading in to Week 11:
No. 1 seed: Houston Texans (7-3) -- Remaining opponents: at Jaguars, vs. Falcons, at Bengals, vs. Panthers, at Colts, vs. Titans
No. 2 seed: Pittsburgh Steelers (7-3) -- Remaining opponents: at Chiefs, vs. Bengals, vs. Browns, at 49ers, vs. Rams, at Browns
No. 3 seed: New England Patriots (6-3) -- Remaining opponents: vs. Chiefs, at Eagles, vs. Colts, at Redskins, at Broncos, vs. Dolphins, vs. Bills
No. 4 seed: Oakland Raiders (5-4) -- Remaining opponents: at Vikings, vs. Bears, at Dolphins, at Packers, vs. Lions, at Chiefs, vs. Chargers
No. 5 seed: Baltimore Ravens (6-3) -- Remaining opponents: vs. Bengals, vs. 49ers, at Browns, vs. Colts, at Chargers, vs. Browns, at Bengals
No. 6 seed: Cincinnati Bengals (6-3) -- Remaining opponents: at Ravens, vs. Browns, at Steelers, vs. Texans, at Rams, vs. Cardinals, vs. Ravens
On the bubble: New York Jets (5-4), Buffalo Bills (5-4), Tennessee Titans (5-4), San Diego Chargers (4-5), Kansas City Chiefs (4-5), Denver Broncos (4-5)
The potential season-ending injury to Matt Schaub could completely change the forecast for the AFC the rest of the way. With a manageable schedule after a Week 11 bye, the Texans looked like they were in the driver's seat for home-field advantage. Now, at least five or six other teams can start dreaming about that possibility.
The first game of this week -- the Jets in Denver on Thursday night -- looms large in the playoff race. Both teams are still in their respective division races, while the Jets are just outside the wild-card cutoff.
Two other huge games within the AFC: Cincinnati at Baltimore on Sunday and Kansas City at New England on Monday. The Chiefs, who lost Matt Cassel to a hand injury in Week 10, are running out of wiggle room. New England, meanwhile, has the conference's most favorable schedule down the stretch.
No. 1 seed: Green Bay Packers (9-0) -- Remaining opponents: vs. Buccaneers, at Lions, at Giants, vs. Raiders, at Chiefs, vs. Bears, vs. Lions
No. 2 seed: San Francisco 49ers (8-1) -- Remaining opponents: vs. Cardinals, at Ravens, vs. Rams, at Cardinals, vs. Steelers, at Seahawks, at Rams
No. 3 seed: New Orleans Saints (7-3) -- Remaining opponents: vs. Giants, vs. Lions, at Titans, at Vikings, vs. Falcons, vs. Panthers
No. 4 seed: New York Giants (6-3) -- Remaining opponents: vs. Eagles, at Saints, vs. Packers, at Cowboys, vs. Redskins, at Jets, vs. Cowboys
No. 5 seed: Detroit Lions (6-3) -- Remaining opponents: vs. Panthers, vs. Packers, at Saints, vs. Vikings, at Raiders, vs. Chargers, at Packers
No. 6 seed: Chicago Bears (6-3) -- Remaining opponents: vs. Chargers, at Raiders, vs. Chiefs, at Broncos, vs. Seahawks, at Packers, at Vikings
On the bubble: Dallas Cowboys (5-4), Atlanta Falcons (5-4), Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-5)
The 16-0 watch is on for Green Bay, but San Francisco still has five games left against the otherwise-horrid NFC West -- which means that a slip-up here or there by the Packers could give the 49ers the NFC's No. 1 seed. Tampa Bay, with its season on the brink, visits Green Bay in Week 11.
The Lions and Giants would meet in a first-round matchup, as things stand now, but both of those teams have very trying schedules left.
There are some testers on the Sunday schedule for teams in the playoff hunt, culminating in Sunday night's Eagles-Giants game. Philadelphia is tied for last place in the NFC East, but could still tighten New York's collar -- and bring Dallas right back into the mix -- with an upset.