The 2014 NFL regular season has come to an end and the usual suspects once again find themselves back in the AFC playoff picture. Four of the six AFC teams that appeared in the playoffs a year ago have once again earned a spot in the postseason and are looking to bring the Vince Lombardi Trophy back to their conference.
Much like a year ago, the New England Patriots and Denver Broncos will be resting for the first week of the playoffs. New England didn’t exactly start the season off on the right foot, with blowout losses to the Miami Dolphins and Kansas City Chiefs, both of which missed out on the playoffs this year. But if football fans have learned anything about the Patriots in the past decade, it’s that Tom Brady and Bill Belichick won’t stand for anything short of greatness. The future Hall of Fame quarterback ultimately led New England to a 12-4 record and a chance to bring the Pats their first Lombardi Trophy since 2004. Much like fine wine, Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning only gets better with age. Last seasons MVP and AFC Champion threw for 39 touchdowns and 4,727 yards in 2014 and brought Denver to the playoffs yet again. With the deepest receiving core in the NFL, the Broncos seek revenge for the beat down they were handed in Super Bowl XLVIII.
An AFC North divisional showdown will take place as the kick off for the postseason as the Baltimore Ravens will travel to Pittsburgh to take on the Steelers. The Ravens snuck into the playoffs after a Week 17 win against the Browns. 10-6 Baltimore fought through ongoing criticism of the Ray Rice scandal to succeed on the football field without their star running back and earn a postseason berth for the sixth time in seven years. The Pittsburgh Steelers put together one of the best offensive campaigns in NFL history, averaging over 411 yards and 27 points per game. Wide receiver Antonio Brown led the league in both receptions and receiving yards as he looks to continue his success into January.
The AFC South champion Indianapolis Colts will host Andy Dalton and the Cincinnati Bengals on Wild Card Weekend. Colts quarterback Andrew Luck had a career year, finishing first in the league in passing touchdowns with 40. Luck has brought Indianapolis to the playoffs in each of his first three pro seasons but has yet to advance to the AFC Championship Game. On the opposite sideline will be the 10-5-1 Cincinnati Bengals. Cincinnati has had a roller coaster season of sorts, looking like a Super Bowl contender at some points and a bottom feeder at others. A Week 16 victory over the number two seeded Denver Broncos was exactly what the Bengals needed, giving them a huge momentum swing just two weeks before the postseason.
Gear up for the 2014 NFL playoffs and weeks of excitement as the remaining teams fight for the chance to compete at Super Bowl XLIX. From the dominant Patriots and Broncos to the lucky Ravens, no team is safe so be sure to cheer on your favorite AFC team on the road to Glendale as the AFC postseason battle begins.