The AFC Playoff picture gained clarity at the same time that things continued to get more muddled. The clarity came as more teams were eliminated, while the muddle came at the top as division leaders lost, bringing teams back into the hunt for the top four seeds.
Starting at the top, the Denver Broncos lost on Thursday Night Football, being upset in Mile High Stadium by the San Diego Chargers. The loss opened the door for the second seeded New England Patriots, who controlled their own destiny for home-field advantage until the Miami Dolphins beat them on Sunday.
The Cincinnati Bengals then joined the losing division leaders game with a 30-20 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers. The only division leading team in the AFC to win this week was the one division leader to have already clinched the division, the Indianapolis Colts.
The Kansas City Chiefs still hold the fifth seed in the post season tournament, but, with the Broncos loss and the Chiefs' win in Week 15, the two teams are again tied atop the AFC West. The Broncos hold the head-to-head tie break after having swept Kansas City this season, so the Chiefs will have to win one more game over the final two weeks than Denver if they are to win the division.
The Ravens kept their claim on the sixth spot with a win last night against the Detroit Lions. However, the Dolphins, in the seventh position currently, actually control their destiny for the spot. If the Dolphins win both of their remaining games, they will move into the sixth position, thanks to the Bengals and Ravens facing off in Week 17, ensuring a loss from one of the two. The Dolphins also could still win the AFC East if they win out and the Patriots lose both of their remaining games.
The Chargers and Steelers round out the nine teams trying to claim the six playoff positions. Both teams need a lot of help to land in the tournament as the calendar moves to January.
In the AFC, the New York Jets, Tennessee Titans, Buffalo Bills, Jacksonville Jaguars, Oakland Raiders, Cleveland Browns, and Houston Texans have all been eliminated.