The Seattle Seahawks clinched a National Football League postseason berth with a 42-13 rout of the San Francisco 49ers, leaving two of the 12 playoff spots undecided heading into the final week of the regular season.
The defending Super Bowl-champion New York Giants are in danger of being among those left out of the playoffs after a 33-14 loss yesterday to the Baltimore Ravens, who claimed the American Football Conference’s North Division title.
The loss knocked the Giants (8-7) out of contention for the National Football Conference’s East division title, which will be decided by the Dec. 30 matchup in Washington between the Redskins (9-6) and Dallas Cowboys (8-7). The Redskins pushed their winning streak to six games by holding on for a 27-20 road win over the Philadelphia Eagles yesterday. The Cowboys lost 34-31 in overtime to the New Orleans Saints and need a Week 17 win to make the NFL playoffs.
The only chance for the Giants to make the postseason -- as a wild-card team -- is to win their regular-season finale at home against the Eagles and get losses from Dallas, the Minnesota Vikings and Chicago Bears. The Vikings (9-6) are at home against the Green Bay Packers (11-4) and the Bears (9-6) are in Detroit against the 4-11 Lions.
The Seahawks locked up at least a wild card spot in the NFC last night as rookie quarterback Russell Wilson threw four touchdown passes, including two to Doug Baldwin. The Seahawks (10-5) remained undefeated in Seattle this season at 7-0 and prevented the 49ers (10-4-1) from winning the NFC West division.
“We’ve had a great year so far,” Wilson said in a televised interview. “It’s just one step. We have a lot more to look forward to.”
The Indianapolis Colts and Cincinnati Bengals also wrapped up playoff berths with victories yesterday. The Colts (10-5) defeated the Kansas City Chiefs 20-13 and the Bengals (9-6) beat Pittsburgh 13-10 to eliminate the Steelers from playoff contention.
While the Redskins and Cowboys square off for the NFC East title, the NFC’s final wild card spot will come down to the Vikings, Bears, Giants or Redskins on Dec. 30. The Cowboys can only make the playoffs with a win, while the Redskins would still have a shot at the postseason with a loss against Dallas.
“We’re going to enjoy this win, and right after Christmas it’s on to Dallas,” Redskins rookie running back Alfred Morris told reporters yesterday. Washington will be seeking its first NFC East title in 13 years.
Indianapolis and Cincinnati join the Ravens, New England Patriots, Houston Texans and Denver Broncos to complete the playoff lineup in the AFC. The Patriots (11-4) beat the Jacksonville Jaguars 23-16 yesterday, while the Broncos (12-3) topped the Cleveland Browns 34-12 for their 10th straight win and the Texans (12-3) lost to the Vikings 23-6.
The Seahawks, 49ers, Green Bay Packers and Atlanta Falcons are assured of playoff berths in the NFC.
The NFC North-champion Packers (11-4) rolled to a 55-7 rout of the Tennessee Titans yesterday while the Falcons (13-2) beat the Detroit Lions 31-18 two days ago to clinch home-field advantage up to the Super Bowl.
The 49ers gave up a season-high 42 points, including a touchdown on a 90-yard return of a blocked field goal, yet still can capture the NFC West title by winning their Dec. 30 season-finale against the Arizona Cardinals (5-10). The Seahawks need a home win against the St. Louis Rams (7-7-1) and a San Francisco loss to take the division title.
In Baltimore, Joe Flacco threw two touchdown passes and also ran for a score for the Ravens, who halted a three-game losing streak to win the AFC North at 10-5. The Giants lost for the fourth straight time on the road and were outgained 533-186 in total yards in losing for the fifth time in seven games.
The Redskins won in Philadelphia as rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III threw two touchdown passes in his return from a sprained knee, while the Vikings won in Houston even though Adrian Peterson’s run of eight straight 100-yard rushing games came to an end. Peterson heads into Minnesota’s season-finale against Green Bay needing 208 yards to break Eric Dickerson’s single-season rushing record of 2,105 set in 1984.
Minnesota’s win knocked New Orleans out of the playoff race, even though the Saints won in Dallas on Garrett Hartley’s 20-yard field goal in overtime after blowing a 14-point fourth-quarter lead. Jason Witten set a new single-season record for receptions by a tight end (103) for the Cowboys, who had a three-game winning streak snapped.
The Bears got two defensive touchdowns in a 28-13 win at the Arizona Cardinals, their second victory in seven games.
The New York Jets lost 27-17 to the San Diego Chargers (6-9) as quarterback Greg McElroy was sacked 11 times -- tying the most in franchise history -- in his first NFL start. The Jets drop to 6-9 with their fifth home defeat this season.
In other Week 16 games between teams out of playoff contention, it was Miami 24, Buffalo 10; St. Louis 28, Tampa Bay 13; and Carolina 17, Oakland 6.
The Bengals are headed to the postseason in consecutive years for the first time since 1981-82 after Josh Brown kicked a 43-yard field goal with four seconds left in Pittsburgh.
Brown’s winning kick came two plays after the Bengals’ Reggie Nelson intercepted a pass from Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger near midfield with 14 seconds remaining.
The Colts, after going 2-14 last season, wrapped up a 10th postseason spot in 11 years as Luck threw a 7-yard touchdown pass to Reggie Wayne with 4:08 remaining in Kansas City.
The first overall pick in this year’s NFL draft, Luck passed for 205 yards to take his season total to 4,183, beating the NFL’s rookie record of 4,051 passing yards set by Cam Newton of the Carolina Panthers last year.
“After the season I’ll have a chance to look back and reflect on it,” Luck told reporters. “It’s nice. It’s nicer to be in the playoffs but it’s nice to have a couple records.”