Carolina closed out its remarkable season by wrapping up home-field advantage in the NFC. Denver turned to Peyton Manning to take advantage of New England’s slip up in the AFC. And Rex Ryan made certain to continue the New York Jets’ playoff drought.
Carolina and Denver wrapped up the No. 1 seed playoff seeds in each conference by winning at home on the final day of the regular season on Sunday. Carolina routed Tampa Bay 38-10, while Denver held off San Diego 27-20 to win the AFC West title.
New England will be the No. 2 seed in the AFC after losing to Miami, while Arizona will have the other bye in the NFC despite getting routed 36-6 by Seattle.
Denver’s victory finally settled the AFC playoff picture. Cincinnati is the No. 3 seed and will host AFC North rival Pittsburgh in a wild-card game, while AFC South champion Houston is the No. 4 seed and will host Kansas City, winners of 10 straight games.
The NFC playoff picture won’t be fully settled until after completion of the Sunday night game between Minnesota and Green Bay. Seattle’s blowout win over the Cardinals means the Seahawks will avoid a trip to Lambeau Field to open the playoffs as long as the Packers and Vikings don’t finish in a tie. The winner between the Vikings and Packers will be the No. 3 seed.
Washington, which closed the season with its fourth straight win, is the fourth seed and will host the No. 5 seed.
The highlight of the day was Ryan and the Buffalo Bills stopped the Jets from making the playoffs and gave the Steelers the final playoff spot in the AFC. The Bills beat the Jets 22-17, while Pittsburgh knocked off Cleveland 28-12, the only results that would have gotten the Steelers into the post-season. The Jets have not made the playoffs since 2010.
“I’ve got a lot of friends over there, and I want them to be successful, but not at my expense,” Ryan said.
Ryan has plenty of friends in the Steel City now.
“A lot of thanks to coach Ryan and the rest of the Bills and everybody in Buffalo,” Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said. “I know they’re excited about 8-8 and we’re excited they got us in.”
New England had a chance at home-field in the AFC but flopped in Miami getting beat 20-10. Denver struggled in the first half against San Diego before inserting Manning in place of Brock Osweiler at quarterback and holding on late for the seven-point victory.
“Wherever we play, we play,” Patriots coach Bill Belichick said.
Houston also clinched the AFC South with its win over Jacksonville and will host Kansas City after the Chiefs beat Oakland for their 10th straight victory.
Houston avoided the headache of possibly having to look at eight different tiebreakers against the Colts by beating Jacksonville 30-6 to win the AFC South, making Indianapolis’ victory over Tennessee moot. The Colts entered the day with the slimmest of chances to win the division, but a Texans loss was needed. Houston is the fourth seed.
“We are not happy with just winning the AFC South,” Houston wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins said. “There are bigger goals ahead of us.”
Seattle rebounded from last week’s loss at home against St. Louis with one of its most dominant victories of the season winning big at Arizona. The Seahawks led 30-6 at halftime and won for the sixth time in seven games. The Seahawks won’t know their destination until after the NFC North title is decided later Sunday night.