Half of the teams in first place in their respective divisions lost on Sunday. But two more clubs clinched playoff spots in a wild Week 14.
Just when it appeared that there was a sense of normalcy in this 99th NFL season, here came Week 14. Three of the four teams in the AFC that were leading their divisions lost on Sunday. And the club with the best record in the league with four weeks to play was humbled in Chicago. A few teams that looked like they were headed to the postseason are slumping. And there are now three clubs headed to the 2018 NFL playoffs.
AFC East: Bill Belichick’s New England Patriots had a chance to wrap up the AFC East on Sunday. But a funny thing happened to the club on the final play of the game at Miami. The result was a 34-33 loss to the Dolphins, who remain in the playoff hunt with a 7-6 record. Meanwhile, the Buffalo Bills failed to protect a lead at home and lost to the visiting Jets, 27-23. But New York will not be going to the playoffs for the eight consecutive year.
AFC North: The only AFC North team to come away with a win in Week 14 was the Cleveland Browns. Baker Mayfield and company came up with a 26-20 victory over the visiting Carolina Panthers. The division-leading Pittsburgh Steelers dropped their third consecutive game – this time to the Oakland Raiders, 24-21. The Raven saw their three-game winning streak end in overtime at Kansas City, 27-24. And the Cincinnati Bengals now reside in the last place in the division courtesy of a 26-21 setback to the Chargers at Los Angeles.
AFC South: The Houston Texans’ nine-game winning streak came to a screeching halt at home thanks to the Indianapolis Colts. Quarterback Andrew Luck threw for 399 yards and two scores (1 interception) in his team’s 24-21 triumph. A few days earlier on a Thursday night at Nashville, Titans’ running back Derrick Henry ran for 238 yards and four touchdowns (including an NFL record-tying 99 yard run) as Tennessee walloped the Jacksonville Jaguars, 30-9.
AFC West: Andy Reid’s Kansas City Chiefs are headed back to the playoffs for the fourth consecutive year thanks to a hard-earned 27-24 overtime win at home versus the Baltimore Ravens. The Los Angeles Chargers remained on the Chiefs’ heels by holding off the very-game Cincinnati Bengals, 26-21. And the Oakland Raiders stunned the slumping Pittsburgh Steelers, 24-21. Meanwhile, the Denver Broncos were the only AFC West team to lose on Sunday and fell short at San Francisco, 20-14.
NFC East: The Dallas Cowboys are now the hottest team in the NFL as they came away with a 29-23 overtime victory at home against the Philadelphia Eagles. It completed a season sweep of the Birds and put Jason Garrett’s team in prime position to win the NFC East for the third time in five years. On the other hand, the slumping Washington Redskins started their third different quarterback of the season. But it was Jay Gruden’s defense that couldn’t find a way to contain Giants’ rookie running back Saquon Barkley. The results were a 40-16 loss to big blue, the Redskins’ fourth consecutive setback.
NFC North: For the second straight week on a prime time stage (see New Orleans at Dallas in Week 13), a top-notch defense did a number on one of the better offenses in the league. The Chicago Bears came away with a 15-6 Sunday night win over the visiting Los Angeles rams. They maintained their lead in the NFC North over the 6-5-1 Minnesota Vikings, who play at Seattle on Monday night. The Green Bay Packers snapped a three-game losing streak by winning at home over the slumping Falcons, 34-20. And the Detroit Lions were winners at Arizona, 17-3.
NFC South: It was yet another week where three of the four teams in the NFC South took it on the chin. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers owned a 14-3 halftime lead over the visiting New Orleans Saints. But Sean Payton’s team scored 25 unanswered points in the second half and not only came away with a 14-point win, the team captured the NFC South for the second consecutive year. Elsewhere the Carolina Panthers dropped their fifth straight game as did the Atlanta Falcons. The former fell at Cleveland, 26-20, while Dan Quinn’s squad lost at Green Bay, 34-20.
NFC West: It was a rough evening in the Windy City for the NFC West champion Los Angeles Rams. Quarterback Jared Goff was sacked three times and picked off on four occasions in a 15-6 loss. The San Francisco 49ers did a little spoiling when it came to the Denver Broncos’ run at the playoffs, knocking off Vance Joseph’s club, 20-14. The Arizona Cardinals fell at home to the Detroit Lions, 17-3. Meanwhile, Week 14 comes to an end on Monday night as the Seahawks host the Minnesota Vikings.