NFL playoff picture 2016: Broncos, Panthers clinch top seeds

The Broncos and Panthers have home-field advantage throughout the playoffs this year.

The Pittsburgh Steelers and Houston Texans locked up the final two playoff spots on an action-packed Sunday morning, but the top seed in both conferences was still up for grabs heading into the slate of afternoon games.

In the AFC, the Denver Broncos needed a win to clinch the top seed over the New England Patriots. That’s because the Patriots were upset at the hands of the rival Miami Dolphins in the morning games.

The Broncos did manage to get that win, which gave them home-field advantage throughout the postseason and the AFC West crown. It drops the Patriots to the No. 2 seed, though they still have a first-round bye.  The Kansas City Chiefs had a shot at winning the division, and they did beat the Oakland Raiders on Sunday, but the Broncos victory put it out of reach. Kansas City still has a wild card spot, however.

The top seed in the NFC was down to the Carolina Panthers and Arizona Cardinals heading into Sunday’s games. Thanks to their first loss of the season in Week 16, the Panthers needed either a win or an Arizona loss to clinch the top seed. Everything went right for the Panthers, though — they dominated the rival Tampa Bay Buccaneers while the Seattle Seahawks, a wild card team, made a statement by similarly dominating the Cardinals.

That locked the Panthers and Cardinals as No. 1 and No. 2 seeds in the NFC.

The third seed in the NFC is still up for grabs, and the winner of the NFC North will get it. But the final game of the regular season will decide that winner, as the Green Bay Packers play host to the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday Night Football. The teams are tied for the lead in the division, and whoever loses will end up taking one of the wild card spots.

Here are the current standings after the afternoon games on Sunday:

AFC

1. (z) Denver Broncos (12-4)
2. (z) New England Patriots (12-4)
3. (y) Cincinnati Bengals (12-4)
4. (y) Houston Texans (9-7)
5. (xKansas City Chiefs (11-5)
6. (x) Pittsburgh Steelers (10-6)

NFC

1. (z) Carolina Panthers (15-1)
2. (z) Arizona Cardinals (13-3)
3. (x) Green Bay Packers (10-5)
4. (y) Washington (9-7)
5. (x) Minnesota Vikings (10-5)    
6. (x) Seattle Seahawks (10-6)

(z) – First-round bye
(y) – Division winner
(x) – Playoff berth

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