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AFC Playoff picture: Steelers and Chiefs clinch, Raiders loss to Colts looms large

The AFC Playoff picture is beginning to take shape in the Sunday afternoon games for Week 14.

The final month of the 2020 NFL season has commenced, meaning that teams near the top of the standings need to step up if they want to have any chance of making the playoffs. Especially in the crowded AFC.

There’s a new team at the top of the AFC standings, and that just so happens to be the defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs. After a rough start and a scary final act from the Miami Dolphins, the Chiefs managed to hang on for a 33-27 record to clinch the AFC West title for the fifth-season in a row and take hold of the top seed in the conference. But how does the rest of the AFC shape out?

Pittsburgh becomes second team to clinch playoff berth

The Pittsburgh Steelers (11-1) are slated to face the Buffalo Bills (9-3) in a huge Sunday Night Football matchup. Hours before the big game, the Steelers clinched a playoff berth without even taking the field, and it’s all thanks to Kansas City’s victory over Miami. The Steelers can retake the No. 1 seed if they defeat the Bills.

Speaking of the Bills, they’re coming off an impressive offensive showing against the San Francisco 49ers last week. They certainly hold an advantage over Pittsburgh, but that’s only if quarterback Josh Allen can give a repeat performance. While they won’t crack the top-two in the conference this week with a victory over Pittsburgh, they can continue to hold their No. 3 seed.

The Tennessee Titans (9-4) did as they were expected to do, and that’s easily defeat the one-win Jacksonville Jaguars by the score of 31-10. It was more of the same for the Titans offense, as running back Derrick Henry erupted for 215 yards and two touchdown on 26 carries.

The Cleveland Browns (9-3), the current fifth-seed in the AFC, has a full day of rest and preparation until their contest with the Baltimore Ravens (7-5). A victory by Cleveland would give them a one-game cushion over the likes of the Indianapolis Colts (9-4) and Dolphins (8-5), both of whom hold the sixth and seventh seeds respectively. But a win by Baltimore could make the field for the final two playoff berths much more crowded.

One team that might’ve played their way out of a playoff berth are the Las Vegas Raiders (7-6), who lost to the Colts 44-27 on Sunday. Las Vegas is now in a territory where they can’t control their playoff fate. The Raiders’ next three games come against the Los Angeles Chargers, Dolphins and Denver Broncos, respectively. Another loss would likely derail their chances of clinching a berth, especially since the Ravens hold arguably the most favorable remaining schedule in the league (Jacksonville Jaguars, New York Giants and Cincinnati Bengals). It’s certainly not an admirable situation for the Raiders. Maybe the switch from Paul Guenther to Rod Marinelli at defensive coordinator could be just what Las Vegas needed.

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