By Barry Wilner
AP Pro football writer
If they sing something in Kansas City, Pittsburgh, and Seattle, it could be “I can see clearly now.” All three took some big steps on Sunday.
Try “Purple Haze” for the matching song on AFC South and NFC East. Or “Land of Confusion”.
The postseason image was brought into focus in some places and more jumbled in others. The folks at NFL headquarters must love having quarterbacks as big as Patrick Mahomes, Ben Roethlisberger, Russell Wilson, Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees already in the field. And they must be thrilled that at least 10 matchups in week 17 will have some relevance to the playoffs.
“Cherish those moments,” linebacker KJ Wright, the longest-serving Seahawks player, told his teammates in the locker room after a 20-9 win over the Rams. “It’s been a while since we were NFC West champions. And this team, especially our brotherhood, our togetherness, brought us to this moment. “
At this moment you can see how things are – and what could be ahead of us on the first Sunday in 2021.
Buffalo (11-3), who takes on New England on Monday night, holds the division crown and will reach number 2 behind Kansas City with the win.
Miami (10-5), with one of the most impressive two-season turnarounds in recent history, is making a wildcard place by winning the Bills next weekend – a huge challenge. But the dolphins have overcome many challenges this year.
“I think we have a special team,” said Dolphins quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick after planning a last-minute ride against Las Vegas on Saturday night. “I think this team has fought all year.”
Pittsburgh (12-3) broke a three-game slide with a monstrous second half to beat Indianapolis. That gave the Steelers the title of division.
“There’s a fine line between drinking wine and squeezing grapes and it was very subtle at times,” said coach Mike Tomlin.
The grapes taste pretty sweet to Baltimore and rancid to Cleveland.
The Ravens (10-5) have won a fourth game in a row against the Giants and will go into the postseason with a win over Cincinnati. The Browns, who tried to end the NFL’s longest playoff absence – the last appearance in 2002 – were severely undercut by COVID-19 issues and fell to the Jets. You have to defeat arch-rival Steelers, and wouldn’t Pittsburgh enjoy keeping this drought going?
The collapse of Indianapolis in Pittsburgh brought the Colts (10: 5) out of the playoffs. To get back in as the Joker, they have to deal with the incompetent Jacksonville (1-14, whose win was the opening day against Indy) and lose either Baltimore, Cleveland or Miami. Or if Tennessee (10-5 after losing at Green Bay) loses in sad Houston next Sunday and the Colts win, they’ll get the division crown and the Titans will likely fail. Or not.
All of Kansas City (14: 1), despite a narrow win against weak Atlanta on Sunday. The reigning league champions have the only post-season reunion of the AFC.
“When you look at the history of this bye week, it’s usually a good thing for the teams trying to make a championship run,” said Mahomes. “But at the end of the day we have to find a way to win a football game when we get there.”
All of Seattle’s and the Seahawks (11-4) got a shot at the conference.
With their defeat in Seattle, the Rams (9-6) need a home win against Arizona (8-7) to get a wild card. A loss would lift the Cardinals and, if Chicago beats Green Bay, it would give the Bears a berth as well and grab LA.
All Green Bay’s, as well as the NFC farewell with a win at Soldier Field next Sunday. The Packers (12-3) must avoid a three-way duel with Seattle and New Orleans at 12-4 that would bid farewell to the Saints.
Chicago went from 5-1 to 5-7 to 8-7. A win and the bears are tied to the playoffs.
Everyone settled down, with New Orleans (11-4) on top and Tampa Bay, and the 43-year-old newcomer quarterback – a guy named Brady – guaranteed a wild card at 10-5.
Everything unclear – except for Philadelphia (4-10-1), whose chances disappeared after a defeat at Dallas (6-9). Look out for these:
A Washington win at Philly on Sunday night gives Ron Rivera’s team the division at 7-9, no matter what the Cowboys do at the Giants (5-10) that afternoon. Washington beat Dallas this season.
However, an Eagles win then means that everyone who emerges from the Cowboys-Giants matchup in the Meadowlands – other than a tie – goes to the playoffs.
Yes, a team with a loss will be in the Super Bowl chase and host a playoff game on the second weekend in January.