The playoff picture for the AFC is nearly set. The Houston Texans, Pittsburgh Steelers, Miami Dolphins, and Kansas City Chiefs all clinched postseason bids this week, joining the New England Patriots and Oakland Raiders.
Now, all that’s left to determine is seeding. The Patriots and Raiders are still in contention for the top seed, while the Chiefs can overtake the Raiders for the second seed. However, the Steelers (No. 3) and Texans (No. 4) are already locked into their spots, while the Dolphins are guaranteed a wild card berth.
The Steelers needed a win over the Baltimore Ravens at home on Sunday to punch their ticket to the postseason. It took a dramatic late-game comeback, and some heroics from wide receiver Antonio Brown, but Pittsburgh was able to top the Ravens, 31-27.
The Steelers trailed through much of the game, and then rallied in the fourth quarter to take the lead. The Ravens retook the lead with just over a minute remaining, but the Steelers quickly moved the ball down the field. With nine seconds left, Brown had to fight for a touchdown, reaching to break the plane with one hand. That extra effort clinched the AFC North for Pittsburgh.
Houston sewed up the AFC South with a 12-10 win over the Cincinnati Bengals on Saturday. Cincinnati had a chance to steal the game from the Texans with a late rally. The Bengals converted a crucial first down and got into field goal range, but kicker Randy Bullock missed a 43-yard attempt.
The Texans’ win finally settled an AFC South race that remained close through the last few weeks of the season. The Titans and Colts were both eliminated from playoff contention.
The Raiders secured a spot in the postseason in Week 15, but they’re still in a race for the AFC West title with the Chiefs. Kansas City cruised past the Denver Broncos on Sunday night and eliminated the defending Super Bowl champs from the postseason. The Chiefs can still win the division — and a first-round bye — if they beat the Chargers and the Raiders lose to the Broncos in the season finale.
The problem for the Raiders is that they will be without quarterback Derek Carr, who has been instrumental to their success this season. Carr suffered a broken fibula on Saturday against the Colts and is out indefinitely.
The Patriots also clinched their spot in the postseason in Week 15, as well as a first-round bye. New England continued to roll in Week 16, demolishing the New York Jets by a final score of 41-3. The Patriots just need to beat the Dolphins and they can lock down the top seed in the AFC. An Oakland loss would also guarantee that New England gets the No. 1 spot.
The Raiders would need to win and have the Patriots lose if they want to sit atop the AFC this postseason.
Here are the AFC standings after Week 16. The NFC standings can be found here.
- New England Patriots (13-2)
- Oakland Raiders (12-3)
- Pittsburgh Steelers (10-5)
- Houston Texans (9-6)
- Kansas City Chiefs (11-4)
- Miami Dolphins (10-5)