AFC divisional matchups set: Steelers-Broncos; Chiefs-Pats
Big Ben vs. Peyton Manning. Andy Reid vs. Bill Belichick.
The Steelers are on to Denver while the Chiefs are heading to New England.
Ben Roethlisberger rallied the Steelers to an 18-16 comeback win over Cincinnati after being carted off the field with a right shoulder injury, setting up a divisional round playoff game against the Broncos (12-4) next Sunday.
The Steelers might be without star receiver Antonio Brown, who sustained a concussion after taking a shot to the head on the final drive Saturday night.
The Chiefs also could be without their top receiver following a 30-0 win at Houston. Jeremy Maclin had tears in his eyes when he was carted off with a right knee injury. Maclin will have an MRI on Sunday. He missed the entire 2013 season because of a torn right ACL.
The sixth-seeded Steelers (11-6) already beat the Broncos in Pittsburgh in Week 15. They rallied from a 17-point deficit by dominating the league’s top defense in a 34-27 win. Roethlisberger passed for 380 yards and three touchdowns and Brown caught 16 passes for 189 yards and two scores.
Peyton Manning watched that game in street clothes. He’ll be under center for the Broncos instead of Brock Osweiler next week. Manning relieved Osweiler in the second half of the regular-season finale and led Denver to a division-clinching win and the No. 1 seed in the conference.
The 39-year-old Manning will make his 25th playoff start and second against Pittsburgh. He’s 11-13, including a loss to the Steelers a decade ago with Indianapolis.
Roethlisberger has the same number of playoff wins in only 16 postseason starts and one more Super Bowl ring (2-1) than Manning. Roethlisberger beat Manning and the Colts in their only playoff meeting 10 years ago.
If Roethlisberger can’t play because of his shoulder injury, Landry Jones would make his first career playoff start. Jones was 1-1 filling in this season. Michael Vick is Pittsburgh’s No. 3 quarterback.
The previous time the Steelers played the Broncos in the playoffs, Tim Tebow was the best quarterback on the field. Tebow threw for 316 yards, including an 80-yard TD pass to Demaryius Thomas in overtime in a 29-23 win at Denver on Jan. 8, 2012.
After routing the Texans (9-8) in the playoff opener, the Chiefs (12-5) had to wait a few hours to find out their next opponent.
They’ll play New England (12-4) next Saturday afternoon for their first meeting since Week 4 of the 2014 season. The Chiefs beat up on Tom Brady and the Patriots in a 41-14 victory.
Brady was 14 of 23 for 159 yards, one TD and two interceptions. Jimmy Garoppolo finished the game and there was some talk he should replace Brady as the starter. But the Patriots dominated the rest of the season and won their fourth Super Bowl.
While the Chiefs are the hottest team in the NFL, the injury-riddled Patriots stumbled to the finish. They lost their final two games to drop from first to second in the conference. They were 2-4 after a 10-0 start.
The Patriots lost running backs Dion Lewis and LeGarrette Blount for the season and star wideout Julian Edelman missed the last seven games.
Reid gets his first playoff rematch against Belichick since the Patriots beat his Philadelphia Eagles 24-21 in the Super Bowl 11 years ago.
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