However, when the Steelers opened up a huge lead on Sunday, one aspect of the playoff possibilities was easy to understand: Baltimore and Miami needed to win on Sunday.
And both of them choked away their chances to make the playoffs by losing.
Miami was defeated by the New York Jets, 20-7, while Cincinnati defeated Baltimore, 34-17. The Ravens, the defending Super Bowl champions, were officially eliminated with that loss and the Steelers win. Miami was eliminated with the loss.
The losses by the Dolphins and Ravens improbably kept the Steelers alive in the playoff chase. Pittsburgh won to improve to 8-8. The Chargers were suddenly in the driver's seat after losses by the Dolphins and Ravens. If San Diego defeats Kansas City on Sunday afternoon, the Chargers will be the sixth seed. However, if the Chargers lose, the Steelers would win a five-team tiebreaker to make the playoffs.
Miami and Baltimore fought through December to stay alive in the AFC playoff race, but blew it on Sunday.
Despite being rocked by Richie Incognito's alleged mistreatment of teammate Jonathan Martin, Miami was 3-2 in its past five games. Miami was poised to make its first playoff appearance since 2008, but were beat soundly at home by a Jets team that was already out of the playoff race.
Meanwhile, Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco, who received a six-year deal with $120.6 million after last year’s Super Bowl season, completed 30-of-50 passes for 192 yards, one touchdown and three interceptions. Bengals cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick returned one of Flacco’s interceptions 21 yards for a touchdown late in the fourth quarter to seal Baltimore loss.
Miami and Baltimore had a chance to make the postseason with wins on Sunday. Instead, their offseason starts now.
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