While it has been a given that the New England Patriots and the Denver Broncos would most likely be in the playoffs, the two teams were able to clinch their divisions this week, and in doing so almost clinch first round byes.
Meanwhile, the Cincinnati Bengals shut out the Cleveland Browns and maintain their position as the fourth-seed in the AFC playoffs race and keep their half-game lead over the Baltimore Ravens and the Pittsburgh Steelers. The biggest change that occurred in Week 15 for the AFC playoff race came as a result of both the Steelers and Ravens winning, while the San Diego Chargers lost to the Denver Broncos.
The Steelers remained second in the AFC North and in position for the fifth seed due to their win over the Atlanta Falcons. The Chargers dropped a tough game to the Broncos, which propelled Baltimore in the sixth spot.
A few weeks ago, the Cleveland Browns looked to be as much in the playoffs race as the rest of the AFC North division. Today, their 7-7 record ultimately eliminates them from the playoffs race. The Bengals win over the Browns eliminates Cleveland from yet another division championship, and, at 7-7, are essentially eliminated from playoff contention.
Moving up in the AFC playoffs race were the Buffalo Bills with their upset of the Green Bay Packers to give them an 8-6 record with two games to go. They are tied with the Chargers, Bills and Chiefs in a tight chase for the wild card spots left in the AFC playoff picture. Sitting on the outside are the Houston Texans, who would need to win out and hope for an extremely unlikely outcome that between the Ravens and Steelers at 9-5, and the Bills, Chiefs and Chargers at 8-6, all but one would need to finish with a 9-7 record or worse. The Miami Dolphins' loss to te New England Patriots eliminates them from playoff contention.
So with only two games left, the Steelers' prospects of making the playoffs is becoming more tangible with every win. A road win against the Atlanta Falcons keeps their spot in the playoffs and a tie with the Baltimore Ravens' 9-5 record. The Steelers currently own the tiebreakers necessary to finish ahead of the Baltimore Ravens if both teams win out.
Should the Steelers win out, they would win the AFC North outright and have a shot at taking the third seed in the playoffs should the Indianapolis Colts lose to the Dallas Cowboys next week. The Steelers control their own destiny with all their road games done for the 2014 season, which right now is an awesome feeling.