Two weeks remain in the NFL regular season and eight AFC teams are still in contention for a trip to Super Bowl XLVII in New Orleans.
The AFC late-season playoff push features one division title (AFC North), two Wild Card spots and home-field advantage still on the line entering Week 16. With every game of vital importance, momentum is essential as teams look to the postseason.
"Everyone wants to have the best record, win the division and play at home for the playoffs, but in my opinion, the team that is playing the best has the best opportunity," says NFL Network analyst and former NFL MVP quarterback Kurt Warner. "This game is always about confidence and momentum. If you have it, you're tough to beat, nobody wants to play you and it gives you a distinct advantage. It starts in the regular season and you want to be playing well down the stretch."
The Denver Broncos (11-3), who own the NFL's longest active winning streak (nine games), aim to sustain their momentum in the final two weeks of the regular season. Denver clinched the AFC West for the second consecutive season and has hopes of securing a first-round bye and home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs. The Broncos will host the Cleveland Browns (CBS, 4:05 PM ET) in Week 16.
"If you want to play well in the playoffs, you need to finish the regular season on a high note," says Denver veteran wide receiver BRANDON STOKLEY. "We want to continue to get better and we haven't played our best football yet. I think everybody understands that once you get in the playoffs, you need to bring you're A-game every week."
The Pittsburgh Steelers face a must-win scenario against divisional foe Cincinnati on Sunday at Heinz Field (CBS, 1:00 PM ET). The Steelers defeated Cincinnati, 24-17 in Week 7. Since 2008, Pittsburgh has a 10-3 record in the second meeting of a season against divisional opponents, third-best in the NFL during that span. The Steelers conclude their season at home against division rival Cleveland in Week 17.
"We win the last two, we're in the tournament, but we've got to get it going and got to get it going fast," says Steelers wide receiver MIKE WALLACE. "We've got to win two at home. The good thing is it's the same as it was before we came here. We control our own destiny."
A breakdown of the AFC division races:
AFC EAST: New England (10-4) has clinched the AFC East division title.
AFC NORTH: Baltimore (9-5), Cincinnati (8-6) and Pittsburgh (7-7) remain in contention for the AFC North division title.
AFC SOUTH: Houston (12-2) has clinched the AFC South division title.
AFC WEST: Denver (11-3) has clinched the AFC West division title.
The following teams are in AFC Wild Card contention:
|Source: NFL *Baltimore has already clinched a playoff berth and currently leads the AFC North|
2012 Week 16 Schedule (December 22-23)
(All times local)
Saturday, December 22
Atlanta at Detroit, 8:30 PM (ESPN)
Sunday, December 22
Buffalo at Miami, 1:00 PM
San Diego at NY Jets, 1:00 PM
Washington at Philadelphia, 1:00 PM
Oakland at Carolina, 1:00 PM
Cincinnati at Pittsburgh, 1:00 PM
New Orleans at Dallas, 12:00 PM
St. Louis at Tampa Bay, 1:00 PM
Tennessee at Green Bay, 12:00 PM
Cleveland at Denver, 2:05 PM
Minnesota at Houston, 12:00 PM
Chicago at Arizona, 2:25 PM
New England at Jacksonville, 1:00 PM
NY Giants at Baltimore, 4:25 PM
Indianapolis at Kansas City, 12:00 PM
San Francisco at Seattle, 5:20 PM (NBC)
- Foles Suffers Broken Hand, Michael Vick to Start Anew for Eagles
- Russell Wilson Throws Four TD Passes, Seahawks Clinch Playoff Spot
- Peyton Manning Throws Three TD Strikes, Broncos Blast Browns
- RG3 Returns, Leads Redskins to Brink of NFC East Title
- Tim Tebow to Join Jacksonville Jaguars Next Season
- Matt Ryan's Four TDs Help Falcons Clinch NFC's Top Seed
- Mark Sanchez to be Jets Number 2 QB vs. Chargers
- Quarterback Returns: Redskins to Start RGIII vs Eagles
- NFL Docks Falcons Safety Chris Hope $30K Fine for Hard Hit
- NFL Fines Niners Safety Dashon Goldson $21K for Illegal Hit
- Tim Tebow Did a Good Job, Says Jets Offensive Coordinator
- Bills Stay in Buffalo with 10-year Lease Deal
- Colts Eye Christmas Eve Return for Coach Chuck Pagano
- Drew Brees Expects Sean Payton to Continue Coaching Saints
- Bills Center Eric Wood Despises Rogers Centre Series
- Former Ohio State Back Maurice Clarett a Changed Man
- Giants' Victor Cruz Pays Tribue to Newtown Casulty's Memory
- NFL Teams Prepare For Final Stretch
- NFL 2012 Week 16 Preview: Giants vs Raven
- NFL 2012 Week 16 Preview: Bengals vs Steelers
- NFC Playoff Picture with Two Weeks to Go
- Momentum Key for Teams Heading to Postseason
- 2012 NFL Playoff Scenarios For Week 16
- Jets Coach Rex Ryan Benches Sanchez, McElroy to Start vs Chargers
- The Week That Was: NFL 2012 Week 15
- Robert Griffin III Overtakes Favre in NFL Jersey Sales
- Browns Rookie Rusher Frustrated Over Limited Touches vs Redskins
- Chris Johnson, Jake Locker Star as Titans Dash Jets Playoff Hopes
- Redskins' Fletcher Claims Browns Security Assaulted Family Members
- Seahawks Coach Carroll Sorry About Fake Punt vs Bills
- Colin Kaepernick Outplays Tom Brady as 49ers Book Playoff Berth
- Kirk Cousins Shines in First QB Start as Redskins Blast Browns
- Andy Dalton Shines as Bengals Beat Eagles
- Playoff Races Heat Up as 24 Teams in Contention for Trip to Super Bowl XLVII
- AFC Playoff Push Intensifies
- NFC Playoff Races Intensify as NFL Enters Final Three Weeks
- NFL 2012 Week 15 Preview: Packers vs Bears
- NFL 2012 Week 15 Preview: Broncos vs Ravens
- NFL 2012 Week 15 Preview: 49ers vs Patriots
- Giants Back Ahmad Bradshaw Uncertain vs Falcons Due to Knee Woes
- Steelers Suspend RB Rashard Mendenhall for Absence
- Suspended Saints Coach Sean Payton May Return Before Super Bowl
- Tagliabue Overturns Ban on Players Involved in Saints Bounty Scandal
- 49ers Suspend Brandon Jacobs for Remainder of Season
- Tom Brady Throws Four Scoring Strikes as Patriots Rout Texans
- Ravens Can Coordinator Cam Cameron, Promote Jim Caldwell
- Cowboys Owner, Tackle Ratliff Have Heated Confrontation
- Linebacker's Death Puts Spotlight on NFL Drug, Alcohol Problem
- Packers Tame Lions, Close in on NFC North Title
- Rookies Propel Browns to Rout of Chiefs
- Cam Newton Carries Panthers to Upset Win Over Falcons
- Cowboys Brent Charged with Manslaughter in Teammate Jerry Brown's death
- Browns Special Teamers Reject Plan to Eliminate Kickoff
- Cardinals Deck Dockett with $200,000 Fine
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