Titans get AFC’s No. 1 seed; Colts’ loss helps Steelers
The AFC playoffs will be running through Music City, and the Tennessee Titans should have Derrick Henry back for their first game this postseason.
The Tennessee Titans, who used an NFL-high 91 players for the most ever in a non-strike season, clinched their first No. 1 seed since 2008 and third overall. They needed only a win Sunday, though they made it interesting before holding off the team that replaced them in Houston 28-25 to clinch the AFC’s top spot.
Titans coach Mike Vrabel noted nobody hands out T-shirts and hats for clinching the top seed.
“We understand we’re in the Elite Eight,” Vrabel said. “We’ve moved onto the second round of the playoffs without having to play a playoff game.”
This postseason will feature seven teams who missed the playoffs last season: Arizona, Cincinnati, Dallas, New England, Philadelphia, San Francisco and the Las Vegas Raiders, who clinched their berth in the regular season’s final game. It wound up a 35-32 overtime thriller over the Chargers when a tie would’ve put both in.
“We knew no matter what we didn’t want a tie,” Raiders quarterback Derek Carr said. “We wanted to win the football game.”
The Chiefs (12-5) needed the Titans to lose to clinch the AFC’s top seed. The Titans’ win locked Kansas City in the No. 2 seed thanks to Tennessee (12-5) holding the tiebreaker after beating the Chiefs 27-3 on Oct. 24 in Nashville. Kansas City will host Pittsburgh on Sunday night in the wild-card round.
Only the Green Bay Packers had their playoff seeding set as the NFC’s No. 1 seed going into the NFL’s final week of the regular season.
The Indianapolis Colts came in on a roll with seven Pro Bowl players needing only to beat Jacksonville to reach the playoffs. Instead, the Colts blew a wild-card berth by losing their seventh straight road game to the Jaguars 26-11.
Ben Roethlisberger will play at least one more game after Daniel Carlson ended the possibility of a chaotic tie in Las Vegas. The Steelers had been on the outside looking in until the Colts’ loss, and they beat Baltimore 16-13 in overtime. Then they had to wait and watch in case the Raiders and Chargers tied before clinching the No. 7 seed.
“I’m just happy for Ben,” Steelers kicker Chris Boswell said. “We’re sending him to the playoffs. This team deserves it.”
The fifth-seeded Raiders (10-7) will visit No. 4 seed Cincinnati (10-7) on Saturday afternoon in the first game of the wild-card round. The AFC North champion Bengals routed the Raiders 32-13 on a trip to Las Vegas in November.
The Buffalo Bills (11-6) clinched their second straight AFC East title and the No. 3 seed by beating the Jets 27-10. They will host the sixth-seeded Patriots (10-7) on Saturday night in New England’s first wild-card game on the road under coach Bill Belichick — the Pats’ 17 previous playoff berths all came as AFC East champs.
The Patriots lost three of four, including 33-24 to Miami on Sunday. Each team won on the other’s home field with the Patriots throwing only three passes to win 14-10 in Buffalo, while the Bills won 33-21 in Foxborough on Dec. 26.
In the NFC, the defending Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers (13-4) clinched the No. 2 seed by downing Carolina 41-17. The Bucs will host seven-seeded Philadelphia (9-8) in the first wild-card game Sunday.
Third-seeded Dallas, which routed the Eagles on Saturday night, will host No. 6 seed San Francisco (10-7) in the second wild-card game Sunday afternoon. The Niners beat the Rams 27-24 in overtime to earn their second playoff berth in three seasons.
The Rams (12-5) won their third NFC West title in five seasons with coach Sean McVay when Arizona lost 38-30 to Seattle for the Cardinals’ fourth loss in five games. The Rams loss dropped them to the No. 4 seed, and they will host the fifth-seeded Cardinals (11-6) on Monday night, Jan. 17, in the wild-card round. Each team won as the visitor in the two matchups this season. Arizona won at SoFi Stadium 37-20 in October and the Rams won 30-23 at Arizona last month.
“Playing on the road has been good to us, so it will be a plus if we can go out and handle business the same way,” Arizona defensive back Jalen Thompson said.
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