A key game in the AFC South also happened in the early slate of games. The Indianapolis Colts could have grabbed the lead by beating the Jacksonville Jaguars, but the Jags crushed the Colts, snapping their 16-game divisional winning streak. With a tough game tonight for the Houston Texans against the New England Patriots, the win gives the Jaguars a chance to climb back into the race and make it a three-way run for the divisional crown.
Rounding out the notable things to watch in the early slate was the Cincinnati Bengals against the Pittsburgh Steelers. With Ben Roethlisberger back in action, the Steelers have one of the NFL’s most dangerous offenses, but so do the Bengals — with a healthy Andy Dalton. But Dalton was injured in the first quarter of the game, and the Steelers were in control from there on out, keeping Cincinnati from clinching the AFC North title. Pittsburgh needed the win to stay ahead in the AFC Wild Card race.
After the early group of 11 games kicking off at 1 p.m., there were just two more games before Sunday Night Football. In the first, the Denver Broncos tried to keep a stranglehold on the AFC West. But they fell to the Oakland Raiders and failed to clinch a spot in the postseason. The Raiders gave their wild card hopes a boost with their win.
No other team that hasn’t clinched a postseason spot can earn a spot in Week 14, although the Carolina Panthers and Arizona Cardinals had some rooting interest after locking down spots already. A win for the Panthers against the Atlanta Falcons secured a first-round bye for Carolina, while a loss for the Seattle Seahawks against the Baltimore Ravens would have guaranteed the Cardinals the NFC West crown.
In the AFC there’s little room for error in the wild card race, although unlike the NFC, there are three teams tied for two spots. The Steelers are currently the team on the outside looking in, even after an upset win over the Bengals.
Both the Texans and Buffalo Bills are ready to jump into the race if any team leaves the door ajar for them to do so, but with so many teams in contention, teams like the Raiders and Miami Dolphins would need some help to get back in the thick of the race.