The Atlanta Falcons beat the Jacksonville Jaguars 41-14 to boost their chances of a third National Football League playoffs appearance in four years.
Roddy White caught two touchdown passes from quarterback Matt Ryan, who threw for three scores at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta last night as the Falcons improved to 9-5 to secure their fourth straight winning season. John Abraham had 3 1/2 sacks on Jaguars quarterback Blaine Gabbert, forcing two fumbles that led to scores.
“We’re confident in what we have,” Ryan, who completed 19 of 26 passes for 224 yards, told the NFL Network in a televised interview. “If we play our best football, we’re able to go out there and play against anybody.”
The Falcons scored 24 straight second-half points to beat the Carolina Panthers 31-23 on Dec. 11. Their playoff prospects were further enhanced later that day when the Chicago Bears lost in overtime to the Denver Broncos to drop to 7-6 for the season.
Atlanta currently occupies one of the two wild-card playoff spots in the National Football Conference, which go to the teams with the best records among non-division winners. Division leaders Green Bay (13-0) and New Orleans and San Francisco (both 10-3) lead the NFC, followed by Atlanta. The Detroit Lions (8- 5), who hold the other wild-card place under the current results, face the Oakland Raiders in two days.
The New York Giants are 7-6, the same as the Dallas Cowboys in the NFC East. The Giants beat the Cowboys on Dec. 11 and finish the season against Dallas on Jan. 1 at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey.
Julio Jones, Michael Turner and Corey Peters also scored for the Falcons, who led 41-0 before the Jaguars got touchdowns from Zach Potter and Chastin West.
Atlanta next visits the NFC South-rival Saints, who have won all six home games this season, before completing the regular season at home against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who have lost seven straight games.
Detroit is at home Dec. 24 against the San Diego Chargers, who have won their past two games after ending an 0-6 run, before visiting Green Bay. The Packers are on a 19-game unbeaten streak, two shy of the NFL record set by the New England Patriots in 2003-04.
Jacksonville drops to 4-10 with its fourth defeat in five games. NFL team owners yesterday unanimously approved the sale of the Jaguars to Shahid Khan, the Pakistan-born owner of auto- parts maker Flex-N-Gate Corp. Khan said he will keep the team in the northeast Florida city.
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