AFC playoff field set as wins by Steelers, Chiefs get Dolphins in

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The Pittsburgh Steelers clinched the AFC North with a win over the Baltimore Ravens, while the Kansas City Chiefs eliminated the Denver Broncos from NFL playoff contention.

The Steelers came from behind to trump the Ravens 31-27 on Christmas day and deny Baltimore a spot in the postseason.

Kansas City then knocked off the Broncos 33-10 to move a step closer to securing a first-round bye in the playoffs.

Defeats for Baltimore and Denver aided the Miami Dolphins, who did not play on Sunday but received a nice Christmas present.

The Dolphins (10-5) needed the Ravens and Broncos to lose and that is exactly what happened.

With the Broncos and Carolina Panthers (6-9) eliminated from the playoff picture, it is the first time since 2003 that both teams from the previous Super Bowl will miss the postseason. Neither the Oakland Raiders nor Tampa Bay Buccaneers were able to reach the postseason a year after playing in Super Bowl XXXVII.

 

RUNNING DOWN HILL

Chiefs rookie Tyreek Hill sparked a huge first quarter with a 70-yard touchdown run to give Kansas City and early 14-0 lead. 

The Steelers were able to clinch the AFC North and the third seed thanks to Antonio Brown reaching the ball over the goal line with 9 seconds remaining.

 

RING THE BELL

Steelers running back Le'Veon Bell had 20 carries for 122 yards and caught three passes for 15 yards and two total touchdowns. He scored two of Pittsburgh's three fourth-quarter touchdowns and gave the Steelers a 24-20 lead midway through the fourth quarter with a tough seven-yard reception. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger kept the play alive with his feet before finding Bell underneath as he then powered into the end zone.

Bell even provided some words of encouragement for Brown after the Steelers got the ball back after the Ravens had taken a 27-24 lead with just over a minute remaining.

"I told him he had to go out there and get the game-winning touchdown," Bell told NFL Network. "We weren't thinking field goal."

 

SMITH SWAN SONG?

Though it came in a losing effort, Ravens receiver Steve Smith caught seven passes for 79 yards and now has 1,028 career receptions to move past former Los Angeles Rams receiver Isaac Bruce (1,024) for 12th place on the NFL's all-time receptions list. 

Smith, who said after last season he was retiring, will again have to contemplate his future.

 

SEEDS NOT YET SET

After the Broncos and Ravens were eliminated, the six-team AFC playoff field was set, but the seeds can still change. 

The Raiders (12-3) are on top of the AFC West, but the Chiefs can win the division if they win at the San Diego Chargers (5-10) and the Raiders lose in Denver. The Chiefs swept the Raiders this season and can complete an unbeaten division record by beating the Chargers. The Raiders will be without starting quarterback Derek Carr for the remainder of the season after he broke his right leg in Saturday's 33-25 win over the Indianapolis Colts. 

While the Chiefs still have a chance to get the number two seed and a first-round bye, they also could be the sixth seed. The Dolphins hold a tiebreaker over the Chiefs, so if they both finish 11-5, Miami would get the fifth seed. Miami will play host to the Patriots on Sunday, and New England (13-2) can secure home field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs with a win.

Assuming the Patriots remain the top seed, the Raiders or Chiefs will get the number two with the Steelers and the Houston Texans (9-6) locked into the third and fourth seeds, respectively. The wild-card teams will be the Dolphins and the Raiders or Chiefs, whoever does not win the AFC West.