In the early slate of games heading into Week 15, the Green Bay Packers clinched a spot in the postseason and both Washington and the Houston Texans took control over their respective divisions.
A lot of other minor changes took place, but the afternoon slate of games also featured some serious playoff implications. The Denver Broncos and Cincinnati Bengals both needed a win to clinch a spot in the postseason.
The Bengals easily handled the San Francisco 49ers in their game and clinched a playoff berth, but the Broncos squandered an early lead over the Pittsburgh Steelers and found themselves on the losing end of that game. So the Broncos didn't clinch a playoff spot and the Bengals were unable to clinch the AFC North due to the Pittsburgh win.
Pittsburgh is now well-positioned in the playoff race, as they are still alive in their division and have a good chance at a wild card, though they are now tied with the New York Jets and Chiefs for a spot, same as they were coming into Sunday.
Another factor in the game is seeding -- the Patriots have already clinched a spot in the postseason, but with Denver's loss, they have clinched a bye in the postseason. With one more win, the Patriots would clinch the top seed and homefield advantage in the conference.
The Broncos did have a shot at clinching the AFC West on Sunday, but it required a loss by the Kansas City Chiefs, who handled the Baltimore Ravens in the early slate of games. The Chiefs improved to 9-5 on the season and strengthened their hold on one of the AFC's wild card spots.
In the NFC, the Seattle Seahawks needed either a Washington or New York Giants loss, coupled with a win over the Cleveland Browns to secure a spot in the postseason. The Giants did lose, which gave Washington the lead in the NFC East, and the Browns offered up no resistance to the Seahawks, allowing them to clinch a wild card spot.
The Minnesota Vikings needed to beat the Chicago Bears, have one of Washington or the Giants lose, and have either the Jacksonville Jaguars or Browns win to punch their ticket into the playoffs. The Jaguars could not beat the Atlanta Falcons and the Browns lost to the Seahawks, so the Vikings did not clinch in Week 15.
Unfortunately for the Raiders, they fell out of the wild card race and are eliminated from postseason contention.
Here are the current standings after the 1 p.m. games Sunday:
1. (y) New England Patriots (12-2)
2. (x) Cincinnati Bengals (11-3)
3. Denver Broncos (10-4)
4. Houston Texans (7-7)
5. Kansas City Chiefs (9-5)
6. Pittsburgh Steelers (9-5)
In The Hunt
In The Hunt
Atlanta Falcons (7-7)
Philadelphia Eagles (6-8)
New York Giants (6-8)
(y) = Clinched division
(x) = Clinched playoffs