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NFL Playoff Picture: Patriots Clinch Playoff Berth, Steelers Likely To Do So Soon

The Steelers didn’t clinch a playoff berth with their win today, since the Colts and Jaguars won, but they now have a 1.5 game lead on the AFC North, with the second-place Ravens set to play the Texans Monday night. The Patriots clinched a playoff berth by crushing the Bears, 36-7, with Tom Brady piling up 369 yards, 151 of which were to Deion Branch.

The Chargers shut out the Chiefs, leaving Kansas City at 8-5 and San Diego at 7-6 in the AFC West. In the AFC East, the New York Jets lost to the Dolphins and are now at 9-4. This means that the Steelers are currently in line for a bye in the first week of the playoffs, and they can feel pretty good about getting one if they beat the Jets next week.

So while the Steelers didn’t clinch a playoff berth this week, they have to be feeling very comfortable about getting one – a win in any of the next three weeks would clinch it, and don’t forget that two of their last three games are against the Panthers and Browns. With no team above 8-5 in either the South or the West, it continues to look extremely likely that the wild cards will go to the second-place finishers in the North and Central.

Here’s how the AFC playoff field would look if the season ended today:

First-week byes:
Patriots, Steelers

Other divisional champs:
Jaguars, Chiefs

Wild cards:
Jets, Ravens

Photographs by dizfunk used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.