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5 Takeaways From Week 14 in the NFL

Comeback victories, shakeups in the divisional races and another rare Oakland victory headline XN’s Week 14 NFL observations.

Steelers

Broncos, Patriots, Steelers, Ravens win: AFC Playoff Picture Update

Kyle Orton had a chance to exact revenge on his former club, but instead C.J. Anderson continued running like a man possessed as Denver won its third consecutive game, this time 24-17 over the Bills. Interestingly enough, the well-oiled machine that is the Broncos offense barely needed help from Peyton Manning, who contributed 173 yards passing and was held without a touchdown pass for the first time in 51 games.

Hey, a win is a win, right?

Even with Tom Brady suffering from a rare “off night,” and without the likes of Chandler Jones and Dont’a Hightower on D, the Patriots scored 10 points in the fourth quarter and posted a second-half shutout on the road to defeat San Diego, 23-14. This win elevates New England to 10-3, the 12th straight season the team has won 10 or more games and puts the team at 50-7 in December games all time under Bill Belichick.

Cincinnati’s AFC West lead diminished a bit after losing a head-to-head showdown with Pittsburgh. Thanks to a third straight 200-plus-yard effort out of Le’Veon Bell and a handful of long touchdown passes from Ben Roethlisberger, the Steelers doubled up the Bengals, 42-21, to move within a half-game of Cincy in the standings.

Baltimore did the same, earning a tremendous win on the road in the South Florida without the likes of top defensive lineman Haloti Ngata, who was suspended four games earlier in the week. The Ravens defense stymied Ryan Tannehill and the Miami offense, limiting the home team to 13 points, including three over the final three quarters.

With wins by the top three seeds and Wild Card hopefuls in Pittsburgh and Baltimore, the AFC playoff race currently includes the Steelers and Chargers in the fifth and sixth spots, respectively. The Ravens occupy the seventh spot, with Houston, Miami, Kansas City, Buffalo and Cleveland all on the outside looking in at 7-6.

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