Playoff picture heats up after Week 14

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Things got a little bit more interesting in the playoff hunt after the Steelers defeated the Cincinnati Bengals 33-20 at Paul Brown Stadium on Sunday afternoon.

While the Steelers remain one of the teams still 'in the hunt' for a playoff berth, they aren't just aiming at taking one of the wild card spots currently held by the Kansas City Chiefs and New York Jets, but still reaching for the goal they set at the beginning of the season, winning the AFC North. 

The Steelers sit at 8-5, while the Bengals are 10-3 and leading the AFC North. If the Steelers were to win their three remaining games, against Denver, and then at Baltimore and Cleveland, and the Bengals lose their three games at San Francisco, at Denver and against Baltimore, the power would immediately shift and the Steelers would win the division. And with Bengals' quarterback Andy Dalton's status in question with a fractured bone in his thumb, anything is possible.

First things first, though. You can't look that far ahead, just have to take it one game at a time and that begins this Sunday at Heinz Field against the Denver Broncos. While the players won't be checking other scores, no doubt the rest of us will want to see what the Jets do against the Dallas Cowboys on Saturday night and the Chiefs against the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday afternoon.

There are only three weeks remaining in the NFL regular season, and they are going to be three of the most competitive weeks of football yet.

Here is a look at the remaining opponents for the key teams in the playoff race:

Steelers: Denver (10-3), at Baltimore (4-9), at Cleveland (3-10)
Cincinnati Bengals: at San Francisco (4-9), at Denver (10-3), Baltimore (4-9)
Indianapolis Colts:  Texans (6-7), at Miami (5-7), Tennessee (3-10)
Kansas City:  at Baltimore (4-9), Cleveland (3-10), Oakland (6-7)
New York Jets:   at Dallas (4-9), New England (11-2), at Buffalo (6-7)
Oakland Raiders: Green Bay (9-4), San Diego (3-10), at Kansas City (8-5)
Buffalo Bills: at Washington (6-7), Dallas (4-9), New York Jets (8-5)
Houston Texans:  at Indianapolis (6-7), at Tennessee (3-10), Jacksonville (5-8)

Here is a look at the playoff picture.

AFC Standings:

Division Leaders
New England Patriots – 11-2 – East (clinched playoff)
Cincinnati Bengals – 10-3 – North*    *
Denver Broncos – 10-3  - West
Indianapolis Colts – 6-7 – South

Wild Card
Kansas City Chiefs – 8-5   
New York Jets – 8-5

In the Hunt
Pittsburgh Steelers – 8-5
Oakland Raiders – 6-7
Buffalo Bills – 6-7
Houston Texans – 6-7

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