The Playoff Field Is Set & Other Things We Learned In NFL Week 17
The 2014 NFL regular season ended on Sunday, as all remaining playoff spots were claimed and several division titles were decided. Here’s a recap of the day’s action:
The Steelers Won The AFC North Title, But May Have Lost Le’Veon Bell
The Steelers won their game against the Bengals and captured the AFC North title, but they may have lost a key weapon for the playoffs.
As a result of Sunday’s win, Pittsburgh (11-5) will host the Ravens in the first round of the playoffs next Saturday night, but they may have to do so without running back Le’Veon Bell. He went to the locker room in the second half with an apparent knee injury. Bell’s running has been key in Pittsburgh’s resurgence in 2014.
On Sunday, Steelers’ wide receiver Antonio Brown was a one-man onslaught. He returned a punt 71 yards for a score in the first quarter, and he caught a back-breaking 63-yard touchdown pass from Ben Roethlisberger with 2:50 left to play that wrapped up the 27-17 win.
Cincinnati (10–5-1) had hoped to celebrate their third-straight AFC North crown and clinch a home playoff game, instead the wild-card Bengals will travel to Indianapolis to face the AFC South champion Colts next Sunday.
The Ravens Made The Playoffs…Thanks To The Chiefs
For the Ravens to grab a playoff spot on Sunday, Baltimore had to beat Cleveland and have the Chiefs upset the Chargers. Well, soon after the Ravens topped the Browns, 20-10, in Baltimore, Kansas City knocked out San Diego, 19-7. The results gave Baltimore its sixth playoff berth in seven years.
The Ravens rallied past Cleveland by scoring 17 unanswered points in the fourth quarter. Joe Flacco made several big throws late for Baltimore (10-6), while rookie starting quarterback Connor Shaw was shaky for Cleveland (7-9). The Browns finished their season with five straight losses.
Kansas City (9-7) started inexperienced Chase Daniel at quarterback in place of injured Alex Smith. The Chiefs got just enough offense from Daniel, and their defense held the Chargers to just a single touchdown. No player was better than K.C. linebacker Justin Houston, who recorded four sacks to finish with a league-high 22 on the season. San Diego (9-7) failed to clinch a playoff spot and finished behind the Chiefs in the AFC West.
The Packers Won The NFC North & Clinched A Playoff Bye
The Lions still haven’t won at Lambeau Field since 1991. Detroit (11-5) could have ended that awful streak and won a division title on Sunday, but a gimpy Aaron Rodgers had other ideas. After being carted off the field in the second quarter, Rodgers and his sore calf returned to lead his Packers to a 30-20 win — even after Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh stomped on his sore leg.
Green Bay (12-4) secured a fourth straight NFC North crown and a bye into the second round of the playoffs; the wild-card Lions play at NFC East champion Dallas next week.
The Seahawks Have Home-Field Advantage. Again.
The Seahawks looked mortal for the first half against the Rams on Sunday, but the defending Super Bowl champs switched into “beast mode” just in time to win their sixth straight game and clinch home-field advantage through the NFC playoffs.
Marshawn Lynch’s 9-yard tocuhdown run with 12:07 remaining broke a 6-6 tie, and Seattle (12-4) coasted to a 20-6 win over St. Louis (6-10). The Seahawks defense has seemed ready for the playoffs for weeks; they held five of their final six opponents to less than 10 points. They have looked unstoppable, even when they weren’t playing in Seattle.
The Panthers Clipped The Falcons For The NFC South Title
The Panthers clobbered the Falcons, 34-3, on Sunday and became the first-ever back-to-back NFC South champions. Despite a sub-.500 record, Carolina (7-8-1) will host a playoff game against Arizona next weekend.
Atlanta (6-10) continued its recent history of under-achievement in what could very well be head coach Mike Smith’s final game. Falcons’ quarterback Matt Ryan might not be a fan favorite either; he had two interceptions returned for touchdowns in Sunday’s crucial game.
Jim Harbaugh Is 1 Of Several Coaches Who Will Be Gone On Monday
The 49ers beat the Cardinals, 20-17, on Sunday. In addition to keeping Arizona (11-5) from claiming the NFC West title, San Francisco (8-8) gave Jim Harbaugh a win in his final game as head coach. Almost right after the game ended, reports surfaced that Harbaugh and the Niners mutually agreed to part ways. The news came after Harbaugh had been rumored to be the lead candidate for the top spot at his alma mater, Michigan.
San Francisco won’t be the last team to cut ties with its current head coach this week. Atlanta (Mike Smith), Chicago (Marc Trestman), Oakland (Tony Sparano), the N.Y. Jets (Rex Ryan) and perhaps a few other franchises will likely have new leadership on the sidelines in 2015.
2014 Playoff Schedule
Saturday, January 3
Arizona at Carolina; 4:35 p.m. (ET) on ESPN
Baltimore at Pittsburgh; 8:15 p.m. (ET) on NBC
Sunday, January 4
Cincinnati at Indianapolis; 1:05 p.m. (ET) on CBS
Detroit at Dallas; 4:40 p.m. (ET) on Fox
Saturday, January 10
Lowest AFC seed at New England; 4:35 p.m. (ET)
Lowest NFC seed at Seattle; 8:15 p.m. (ET)
Sunday, January 11
Highest NFC seed at Green Bay; 1:05 p.m.(ET)
Highest AFC seed at Denver; 4:40 p.m. (ET)
Sunday, January 18
AFC Championship; time TBD
NFC Championship; time TBD
Sunday, February 1
Super Bowl XLIX; at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Az.
Dallas 44, Washington 17
Indianapolis 27, Tennessee 10
Houston 23, Jacksonville 17
N.Y. Jets 37, Miami 24
Minnesota 13, Chicago 9
Buffalo 17, New England 9
Philadelphia 34, N.Y. Giants 26
New Orleans 23, Tampa Bay 20
Denver 47, Oakland 14