The Denver Broncos and Cincinnati Bengals clinched places in the playoffs despite losing their final regular season games on Sunday, while the streaking New England Patriots captured the top seed in the AFC.
The Broncos (8-8) and Bengals (9-7) earned playoff berths as results elsewhere favored them, ensuring that both teams will be in action next week when the wild card round begins.
Quarterback Tim Tebow and the Broncos will host last year's Super Bowl runners-up, the Pittsburgh Steelers, while Cincinnati visit the Houston Texans.
The Detroit Lions will be in New Orleans against the Saints and the Atlanta Falcons take on the winner of Sunday's late game between the New York Giants and Dallas Cowboys.
The AFC road to the Super Bowl goes through New England as the Patriots erased a 21-0 first quarter deficit to beat the Buffalo Bills 49-21 and ensure they enter the post-season on the back of eight consecutive wins.
Brady finished with 338 passing yards and three touchdowns to move ahead of Hall of Famer Dan Marino into second place in the single-season passing record. Last week, New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees broke Marino's record of 5,084 yards, which he established in 1984.
The only concern for the Patriots was how they allowed their opponents to get ahead and were forced to mount a major comeback for a third consecutive week,
We don't want to be doing that, said Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski. It's the playoffs now and we have got the best teams coming in our house, so we have to start in the first quarter, start fast and strong. We can't be getting down like that. Luckily we came back.
The Baltimore Ravens beat Cincinnati 24-16 to get the AFC's No. 2 seed and resulting bye week, while in the NFC, the top-seeded Green Bay Packers finished 15-1 after a 45-41 win over Detroit with back-up quarterback Matt Flynn scoring a franchise-record six touchdowns as Aaron Rodgers was given the day off.
The San Francisco 49ers, who held on for a 34-27 win over the St. Louis Rams, take the second seed in the NFC with a 13-3 record, edging the Saints on a tiebreak.
There was disappointment though for the Oakland Raiders and New York Jets whose seasons came to an abrupt end after losses to San Diego and the Miami Dolphins respectively.
Despite the many scenarios needed for some teams to advance to the playoffs, Denver entered their final regular season game against an already eliminated Chiefs team with a simple objective - win and get in.
However, this time there were no comeback heroics from Tebow, who went 6-of-22 for 60 yards in a 7-3 loss.
Chiefs quarterback Kyle Orton, who left Denver this season after losing his place to Tebow, earned some satisfaction from the win but the Broncos were still able to savor the taste of postseason football thanks to Oakland's defeat.
The Broncos have not featured in the playoffs for six years will have a tough challenge against the Steelers having lost their last three games and their quarterback having lost most of the 'Tebow Time' momentum that propelled Denver, who won the AFC West division, into contention.
Everyone was a winner in Cincinnati where Ray Rice had two touchdowns for Baltimore, whose win ensured them of a second-round game at home where they are 8-0 this season.
The Bengals take the sixth seed, a wildcard slot, on a tiebreak from the Tennessee Titans, whose 23-22 win over Houston allowed them to also finish with a 9-7 record.