The final two playoff spots were filled on Sunday as the Carolina Panthers throttled the host Atlanta Falcons, 34-3 to clinch the NFC South division while the Baltimore Ravens won at home, 20-10 against Cleveland and also got the much needed help as the Kansas City Chiefs topped the visiting San Diego Chargers, 19-7 to spoil the post-season party plans for the Chargers.
Heftyinfo NFL Player of the Week Justin Houston (pictured right) had four quarterback sacks as the Kansas City defense harassed Chargers' QB Philip Rivers all game long, registering seven sacks and intercepting two passes to knock the Chargers out of the playoff chase.
The Carolina Panthers defense had two "pick six" interceptions and QB Cam Newton (pictured upper left) ran for a touchdown and passed for another to lead the way in the rout of the Falcons to clinch their second straight NFC South title and they will host a playoff game next weekend in spite of their sub .500 (7-8-1) record. The Falcons fired Head Coach Mike Smith following the season ending loss.
The Green Bay Packers locked up yet another NFC North division title with a 30-20 home win against the Detroit Lions as QB Aaron Rodgers had two TD passes and Micah Hyde took a punt back 55 yards for another touchdown. Detroit QB Matthew Stafford had three TD passes in the loss, but the Lions will be the wild card team taking on Dallas next week. The Packers earned a playoff first round bye with the win.
The Pittsburgh Steelers beat the Cincinnati Bengals, 27-17 on Sunday Night Football to wrap up the AFC North division behind two TD passes from QB Ben Roethlisberger, including one to WR Antonio Brown, who had two touchdowns, including a 71-yard punt return for the other score.
The Baltimore Ravens beat Cleveland to get the final AFC playoff spot with a 17-point fourth quarter rally as QB Joe Flacco (312 passing yards) threw for two scores to lead the way.
The Ravens will travel to play the Pittsburgh Steelers next weekend while the Cincinnati Bengals will be at Indianapolis in the other wild card game, giving the AFC North three playoff teams.
The Denver Broncos locked up the number-two seed in the AFC with a 47-14 thrashing of the visiting Oakland Raiders behind a balanced offense and solid defense, which limited the Raiders to just 199 yards in offense.
The Seattle Seahawks will be the top seeded team in the NFC as they toppled the visiting St. Louis Rams, 20-6 with stellar defense, limiting the Rams to just two field goals and 245 total yards of offense while scoring on a "pick six" interception as well.
Elsewhere around the NFL . . . . . . . . .
The Buffalo Bills (9-7) completed their first winning season in ten years with a 17-9 win at New England as retiring QB Kyle Orton threw a TD pass. The Patriots rested several starters as they had already clinched home field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs . . . New Orleans rallied late for a 23-20 win at Tampa Bay as Drew Brees threw a 36-yard scoring pass to WR Marques Colston . . . The Indianapolis Colts beat Tennessee, 27-10 behind a pair of TD passes from Andrew Luck . . . The Dallas Cowboys coasted past the host Washington Redskins, 44-17 on their way to the playoffs behind a 100-yard rushing performance from RB DeMarco Murray and two TD passes from Tony Romo to Dez Bryant . . . Philadelphia knocked off the host New York Giants, 34-26 as Eagles QB Mark Sanchez had two TD passes and the defense blocked a punt for another score to make the difference . . . Houston won a yawner over the visiting Jacksonville Jaguars, 23-17 as defensive star J.J. Watt recorded a safety on QB sack to seal the game late in the fourth quarter . . . The San Francisco 49ers won 20-17 against Arizona in Head Coach Jim Harbaugh's final game as coach. 49ers QB Colin Kaepernick had two scoring passes in the win . . . The Minnesota Vikings finished their season with a 13-9 home win against the toothless Chicago Bears, who fired Head Coach Marc Trestman on Monday morning following the loss . . . The New York Jets saved their best game for the last one this season as QB Geno Smith went off for three scoring passes and 358 yards passing in a 37-24 rout of the Miami Dolphins, but it wasn't enough to save Head Coach Rex Ryan from being fired today.