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Jets’ Playoff Chances End; Broncos, Bengals Qualify With Losses

The New York Jets’ chances of a third straight trip to the National Football League’s playoffs were snuffed out by a 19-17 loss in Miami. The Denver Broncos and Cincinnati Bengals took the American Football Conference’s final two postseason spots even after losses.

The regular season wraps up tonight with the New York Giants hosting the Dallas Cowboys at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey. The winner advances to the playoffs as the National Football Conference East champion. The losing team’s season is over.

The Jets’ campaign ended at 8-8 after the Dolphins scored 13 straight fourth-quarter points to erase a 10-6 deficit at Sun Life Stadium in Miami. Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez threw three interceptions, the final one with 2 minutes, 55 seconds left after New York had reached Miami’s 10-yard line.

“We played well in spurts this season, just not well enough consistently,” Sanchez, who had 26 touchdowns and 18 interceptions this year, said at a news conference. “I’ve got to play better to win. I can’t throw it to them three times.”

The Jets, who reached the American Football Conference championship game the previous two seasons, entered the final week of the regular season needing a win and losses by three other teams to qualify for the playoffs.

The Bengals lost to the Baltimore Ravens 24-16, yet earned the AFC’s final wild card berth with a 9-7 record because of losses by the Jets, Broncos and Oakland Raiders.

Backing Into Playoffs

Although the Broncos were beaten 7-3 by the Kansas City Chiefs, they won the AFC West because of Oakland’s 38-26 loss to the San Diego Chargers. Denver, Oakland and San Diego all finished 8-8 in the division, with the Broncos taking the title because they held the third tiebreaker advantage -- the best record against common opponents.

“It’s obviously a little bittersweet right now,” Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow, who completed 6-of-22 passes for 60 yards and an interception, said at a news conference. “We’d like to have a little better momentum going into the playoffs. But it’s still very special.”

The New England Patriots clinched the No. 1 seed in the AFC and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs with a 49-21 win over the Buffalo Bills. Tom Brady passed for 338 yards and three touchdowns as the Patriots scored 49 straight points to rally from a 21-0 deficit.

Ravens Get Bye

The Ravens clinched the AFC North, No. 2 seed and a first- round bye as Ray Rice rushed for 185 yards and two touchdowns in their victory in Cincinnati.

While Baltimore and Pittsburgh finished 12-4 in the division, the Ravens won both regular-season meetings, relegating the Steelers to the No. 5 seed in the AFC and an opening-round road playoff game in Denver. The Steelers capped the regular season with a 13-9 win over the Cleveland Browns.

The San Francisco 49ers earned a bye in the first round of the playoffs by beating the St. Louis Rams 34-27 to wrap up the No. 2 seed in the NFC. Michael Crabtree caught two touchdown passes for the 49ers, who finish the regular season with a 13-3 record.

The New Orleans Saints also finished 13-3 after beating the Carolina Panthers 45-17, but will be the NFC’s No. 3 seed because San Francisco held the tiebreaker advantage.

Drew Brees passed for 389 yards and five touchdowns as the Saints set a record for total offensive yards in a season, breaking the mark that was held by the 2000 St. Louis Rams. Brees also eclipsed Peyton Manning’s record for completions in a season, a week after breaking Dan Marino’s 27-year-old mark for single-season passing yards.

Brady Passes 5,000 Yards

Brees finishes the season with 5,476 passing yards, while the Patriots’ Brady amassed 5,235, becoming the third quarterback in NFL history to surpass the 5,000-yard milestone.

The Indianapolis Colts locked up the No. 1 overall pick in the 2012 NFL draft with a 19-13 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Colts and Rams finish the season with 2-14 records, though Indianapolis holds the strength-of-schedule tiebreaker advantage for the top pick.

Stanford University quarterback Andrew Luck is projected by draft analysts to be the No. 1 pick. Manning, a four-time NFL Most Valuable Player, sat out this season after having neck surgery as the Colts finished with their worst record since going 1-15 in 1991.

The Green Bay Packers outscored the Detroit Lions 45-41 as backup quarterback Matt Flynn threw his sixth touchdown pass of the game with 1:10 remaining.

Flynn Leads Packers

Flynn finished with 480 passing yards while starting in place of Aaron Rodgers for the Packers (15-1), who beat the Lions for the 21st straight time at Lambeau Field and prevented Detroit from clinching the NFC’s No. 5 playoff seed. The Packers are the NFC’s top seed and will play at home throughout the playoffs.

Matt Stafford passed for 520 yards and five touchdowns for the Lions (10-6), who had previously locked up their first playoff berth since 1999. The loss means the Lions, as the sixth seed, will face the Saints in the opening round.

The Atlanta Falcons (10-6) gained the NFC’s No. 5 seed with a 45-24 rout of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Julio Jones and Michael Turner each had two touchdowns as the Falcons raced out to a 42-0 first-half lead. Atlanta will meet the NFC East winner on the road in the opening round of the playoffs.

The Tennessee Titans beat Houston 23-22 as the Texans failed to convert a two-point conversion after scoring a touchdown with 19 seconds left. The Titans, who finished 9-7, had their playoff chances end when the Broncos lost.

The Texans (10-6) already had the AFC’s No. 3 playoff seed locked up and will host the Bengals in the first round.

Dolphins Comeback

In Miami, the Jets opened a 10-3 first-half lead before the Dolphins mounted their comeback.

Trailing 10-6, the Dolphins took the lead for good with 10:27 remaining on a one-yard touchdown run by Charles Clay. The go-ahead score capped a 21-play, 94-yard drive that took 12:29 off the clock.

Dan Carpenter then added a pair of field goals for Miami, the second one coming with 2:32 left after Sanchez threw his third interception of the game. Sanchez threw a scoring pass to Patrick Turner with 1:24 left to pull the Jets within 19-17 and the Dolphins were able to run out the remaining time on the clock after recovering New York’s onsides kick.

The Jets allowed nine points off turnovers to push their NFL-leading total to 126 this season.

The Chicago Bears beat the Minnesota Vikings 17-13, the Philadelphia Eagles defeated the Washington Redskins 34-10 and the Arizona Cardinals beat the Seattle Seahawks 23-20 in overtime in games between teams out of playoff contention.

To contact the reporter on this story: Erik Matuszewski in New York at matuszewski@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Sillup at msillup@bloomberg.net

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