NFL playoff picture 2014: Packers, Steelers clinch postseason berth
The Green Bay Packers and Pittsburgh Steelers both clinched postseason berths on Sunday, beating the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Kansas City Chiefs, respectively.
We’re knee deep into playoff scenarios, after three divisions were locked up in Week 15 (the AFC South, AFC West and AFC East), both the Philadelphia Eagles and San Diego Chargers were fighting for their playoff lives on Saturday. Philadelphia did themselves no favors by losing to Washington, while the Chargers helped their cause with a win over the San Francisco 49ers.
But almost every game on Sunday has some kind of playoff implications, with each division in the NFC still up for grabs and wild card spots on both sides being fought for. Even the teams that locked up their divisions in Week 15 are still fighting for seeding and home-field advantage.
While most of the afternoon and prime time games remaining this week carry plenty of playoff implications as well, there was a whole lot to pay attention to early on. There were eight games played in the slate of early games, and here’s what happened in the various playoff races, updated as the games finish:
While the AFC North still has a ways to go before it’s decided, the Pittsburgh Steelers guaranteed themselves, at the very least, a wildcard spot with a win over the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday. They’ve still got a shot of taking the division, and the Baltimore Ravens are still in the discussion, but Pittsburgh’s 20-12 at least gets them into the playoffs, with the AFC North a realistic goal in Week 17.
The Cincinnati Bengals will play the Denver Broncos on Monday Night Football, but they cannot clinch the AFC North due to Pittsburgh’s win.
The New England Patriots clinched the AFC East in Week 15, but they’re fighting for a first-round bye and home-field advantage. They managed to take down the New York Jets in a surprisingly close game on Sunday, 17-16, and in doing so secured a first-round bye in the playoffs. The home-field advantage will be their’s if the Broncos fall to the Bengals on Monday.
Pittsburgh’s win also eliminated the Miami Dolphins from the playoff hunt, as they were clinging on to wild card hopes.
Heading into Week 16, only the Arizona Cardinals had clinched a playoff spot in the NFC, but Philadelphia’s loss on Saturday also clinched a spot for the Detroit Lions, who came into Sunday atop the NFC North. Detroit was capable of clinching the NFC North and, surprisingly, a first-round bye coming into Sunday.
Unfortunately for the Lions, that didn’t happen, as one of the things they needed was a loss by the Green Bay Packers. That was always a long shot, as Green Bay was up against the 2-12 Tampa Bay Buccaneers, so they handled business. That game ended 20-3 in favor of the Packers. Fortunately for Green Bay, they’ve now punched their ticket into the postseason with that win. The NFC North will have to come down to Week 17.
Detroit did manage to stay ahead in said NFC North, thanks to a 20-14 win over the Chicago Bears.
The NFC South wasn’t decided on Sunday, so that dumpster fire will continue into Week 17. The New Orleans Saints had the lead coming into Sunday, but they’ve now been eliminated from postseason contention after falling to the Atlanta Falcons, 30-14. Being eliminated also required the Carolina Panthers to best the Cleveland Browns, which they did, 17-13.
Now, Carolina and Atlanta will play each other for the NFC South in Week 17. Neither are competing for a wild card spot, obviously, so it’s a win-and-in situation.