The Miami Dolphins did everything they needed to do on Sunday to stay in the AFC playoff hunt, beating the Minnesota Vikings, but saw their infinitesimally small chances at landing in the postseason tournament end when the Pittsburgh Steelers beat the Kansas City Chiefs. The rest of the AFC Playoffs tightened up on Sunday, with teams clinching their positions, and a few more teams being eliminated.
At the top of the group, the New England Patriots locked up a first-round bye for the tournament, locking themselves into at least one of the top two seeds in the conference. Behind them, the Denver Broncos and Indianapolis Colts, currently second and third, respectively, in the division have also clinched their postseason berths. The Pittsburgh Steelers, as of right now the fifth seed and second in their division, are also locked into a playoff berth.
The Cincinnati Bengals, who lead the AFC North ahead of Pittsburgh and currently the third seed, are not yet assured of having January football games this year. The current standings also have the San Diego Chargers holding a position in the playoffs, but they are not locked in yet, either.
Denver and Cincinnati play on Monday Night Football this week. A Denver win would clinch a first-round bye, while a Bengals win would clinch their playoff position.
Just outside the six team group are the Baltimore Ravens, the Houston Texans, and the Kansas City Chiefs. All three still have a chance to reach the playoffs, but they are on the outside looking in at this point.
Playoff Standings (through Sunday of Week 16):
1 - New England Patriots (12-3; AFC East champs, clinched first-round bye)
2 - Denver Broncos (11-3; AFC West champs, clinch first-round bye with MNF win)
3 - Cincinnati Bengals (9-4-1; clinch playoffs with MNF win)
4 - Indianapolis Colts (10-5; AFC South champs)
5 - Pittsburgh Steelers (10-5; clinched playoffs)
6 - San Diego Chargers (9-6)
In the hunt
7 - Baltimore Ravens (9-6)
8 - Houston Texans (8-7)
9 - Kansas City Chiefs (8-7)