Carolina, Denver wrap up top seeds
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 at 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.
New England had a chance at home-field in the AFC but flopped in Miami getting beat 2010.
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 sevenpoint victory.
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.