Week 15's results eliminated Buffalo, Cleveland, San Diego, and New Jersey from contention, leaving only Pittsburgh (7-7) and Miami (6-8) competing for playoff spots they're currently not in position for.
The AFCN title is still up for grabs between Pittsburgh, Cincinnati (8-6), and Baltimore (9-5), who clinched a playoff spot when the Steelers lost to Dallas on Sunday.
A Bengals win Sunday over the Steelers would put both Cincy and Indy into the playoffs, and the Colts can get themselves in with either a win or tie at Kansas City, where Ricky Stanzi may get the start due to Brady Quinn's injured ribs.
Miami needs to win out (vs. Buffalo, at New England) and end up in a three-way 8-8 tie with the Steelers and Bengals, both of whom they'd edge in the conference record tiebreaker. It's not exactly a far-fetched scenario, what with the Steelers hosting the Bengals and Browns to close out their season, and the Bengals going to Pittsburgh and hosting Baltimore.
The unlikeliest outcome among those five games would appear to be a Dolphins win at Foxboro, save the very real possibility that the Pats have nothing to play for come Week 17.
Houston can clinch either of the top two seeds this week, while Denver would need a win or tie against Cleveland plus an unfathomable New England loss or tie at Jacksonville to nail down a bye.
Back to the LOLJets, here's last night's game easily summed up in a group of GIFs, and can you believe that Pat Kirwan is lobbying for the playoff field be expanded, using this season's standings as his reasoning? We won't look into this to the tiebreaker level, but at first glance, all four of those eliminated AFC teams would still have a shot at the playoffs if there were seven spots today.
Thank you, but no.
Given that the Broncos are playing for a chance for a first-round bye, one has to wonder which hack asked Fox whether he plans to rest Peyton Manning.
By virtue of the long fourth-quarter touchdown catch-and-run by Dennis Pitta and special teams returns by the Ravens on Sunday, the Broncos have plenty to focus on as far as improvement goes.
With so much to play for, plus those glaring mistakes, staving off complacency shouldn't be all that difficult for Denver's veteran leaders. Even still, Champ Bailey is ready to acknowledge that this team has a chance to go all the way, while Peyton still says he's just getting to know his teammates better each week.
The Broncos offense was rather inefficient out of 11 personnel Sunday, but we're going to largely blame Manny Ramirez's awful pass protection for that.
With each week, Jack Del Rio looks more and more like a hot candidate for a head job, so here's recommending the Broncos offer to make him an assistant head coach with a hefty raise during the offseason, and we're sticking with our assumption that Tom Moore will replace Mike McCoy when the Denver OC lands whatever position he covets. That is, of course, if Moore still wants to coach; he just turned 74 last month, so it's obviously a real question.
Gordon McGuinness commends the play of Eric Decker, Knowshon Moreno, Elvis Dumervil, and Von Miller from Sunday in Baltimore.
Fan balloting for the Pro Bowl closed with plenty of Broncos among the leading vote-getters.
Cleveland waived CB Dmitri Patterson, just nine months after having given him $6M in guarantees as part of a three-year deal. FWIW, he had a +0.8 overall rating from PFF in 415 defensive snaps this year, after a +2.5 grade over 558 snaps last season.
RB Trent Richardson is upset about having only received two carries in the second half of Sunday's loss, and given that he's by far the team's best offensive skill player, who can blame him?
Sam Monson reviews Cleveland/Washington and finds an ugly performance by Brandon Weeden, a pair of run-stuffing tackles, and a brutal day for corner Sheldon Brown.
Despite fine play along both lines, Ryan Wilson figures the Browns have another offseason of rebuilding ahead of them, what with the ownership change and Weeden's struggles. But Terry Pluto thinks Tom Heckert deserves to stick around as the Browns GM, and he's puzzled by calls to replace Heckert with Mike Lombardi.
The chatter in Cleveland is that the Browns should have waited for Kirk Cousins, who beat them Sunday, instead of trading up in the first round for Weeden. Of course, they could easily have presented a better offer to the Rams for the pick sent to Washington which became one RG3, instead of crying over someone else's backup quarterback.
Buffalo agreed to a four-year extension with guard Kraig Urbik; Arizona re-signed C/G Mike Gibson; Baltimore will place LB Jameel McClain on IR with a spinal contusion; Washington T Jordan Black was suspended by the NFL four games for PED use.
More grim details have emerged regarding the Belcher/Perkins tragedy, including the unraveling of their relationship.
Mountaineers WR Stedman Bailey will enter the 2013 Draft.
Beyond A.J. and Norv, Kevin Acee foresees wholesale changes in San Diego, especially along the offensive line. Job #1 for A.J.'s replacement will be overhauling an offensive line that has the unfortunate task of trying to keep Von Miller and Elvis Dumervil at bay semiannually.
Chase Stuart adds Pats/Niners to the biggest failed comebacks in history, and he examines sacks by position and scheme, as J.J. Watt now has the most QB takedowns for a 3-4 end (Simon Fletcher mention alert).