By virtue of a meltdown in Cincinnati that led to a miracle finish by the Pittsburgh Steelers in the Wild Card Round, the AFC side of the bracket is set for the divisional playoffs.
The second-seeded New England Patriots will host the fifth-seeded Kansas City Chiefs next Saturday. The Chiefs obliterated the AFC South champion Houston Texans 30-0 in the Wild Card Game, scoring a touchdown on the opening kickoff and never looking back.
In the second game of the day, the Steelers built a 15-0 lead and took it into the fourth quarter, but the Cincinnati Bengals roared back to take a 16-15 lead when AJ McCarron hit A.J. Green with a go-ahead 25-yard touchdown pass.
The Bengals appeared to put the game way when Vontaze Burfict intercepted backup quarterback Landry Jones' pass on the first play after the kickoff. However, Cincinnati running back Jeremy Hill fumbled the ball back to the Steelers.
Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger Injured, Fans Throw Objects As He’s Carted From Field: Pittsburgh Steelers… https://t.co/pLkKlHBOW5— Pittsburgh News (@BreakingPGHNews) January 10, 2016
Ben Roethlisberger came back from a shoulder injury on the ensuing possession and was able to lead the offense into field-goal position, but the Steelers got two gifts from the Bengals when Burfict and Adam Jones were each called for personal fouls. That turned a long field-goal attempt into one that was in place-kicker Chris Boswell's range.
He nailed the game-winning 35-yard field goal.
Roethlisberger did not go into details when asked by CBS sideline reporter Tracy Wolfson how severe the shoulder injury was or whether he would be able to play at Denver next week.
|NFL Playoff Point Spreads and Predictions|
|Seattle at Minnesota||Wild Card||Seattle (-4.5)||39.5||Seattle; Under|
|Green Bay at Washington||Wild Card||Green Bay (-1)||45.5||Washington; Over|
|Kansas City at New England||Divisional||New England (-4.5)||--||New England|
|Pittsburgh at Denver||Divisional||Denver (-3)||--||Pittsburgh|
|Odds Shark; Silverman selections|
Odds Shark tweeted that the Broncos would open as three-point favorites in that game, but it announced that spread before Roethlisberger was injured.
The Steelers defeated the Broncos 34-27 in Week 15 at Pittsburgh.
The Patriots are 4.5-point favorites over the Chiefs, according to a tweet from Odds Shark. The Chiefs have reeled off 11 straight wins.
The Patriots and Chiefs have not met since Week 4 of the 2014 season when Kansas City punished New England 41-14 in a Monday night game at Arrowhead Stadium.
Roethlisberger's status will be determined during the week, but if there is any way the Steelers quarterback can play, the belief is that he will.
His presence would give the Steelers an advantage at the quarterback position over Peyton Manning, who was named the starter over Brock Osweiler by Gary Kubiak last week, per NFL Network's Ian Rapoport.
The Steelers are the sixth seed and have received gifts from the New York Jets and Bengals the last two weeks. The Steelers never would have made the playoffs if the Jets had won their regular-season finale at Buffalo. However, the Jets could not close out with a win, and that gave the Steelers life. They seized that opportunity by beating Cleveland.
The Cincinnati meltdown gives them a chance to play another week. The belief here is that they will take advantage of that opportunity and beat the Broncos on the road.
The Chiefs will not be so lucky. Their 11-game winning streak will be tested severely by the Patriots, who are expecting to have Julian Edelman back at wide receiver for this game, according to Phil Perry of CSNNE.com.
The combination of Edelman, Rob Gronkowski and Danny Amendola should be enough for the Patriots to survive and advance to the AFC Championship Game.
If our selections are correct, the Pats would host the Steelers in that game. If the Steelers and Chiefs win, Kansas City would host the AFC title game.
If Denver beats Pittsburgh, the Broncos would host the AFC title game no matter who wins between the Patriots and Chiefs.