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COWBOYS, BILLS CLINCH HOME-FIELD ADVANTAGE FOR PLAYOFF CONTESTS

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Not surprisingly, the road to the Super Bowl must go through Dallas and Buffalo.

The Cowboys and Bills, who met in last year's game, have the inside track to get back because neither has to hit the road in the playoffs.Dallas clinched home field in the NFC with a 16-13 overtime victory Sunday at the New York Giants. Buffalo, which lost 52-17 to the Cowboys in the last Super Bowl, got the AFC home field with a 30-10 romp over Indianapolis. Both finsihed 12-4.

"It's been a crazy year," Cowboys coach Jimmy Johnson said. "We've had to play without some of our stars. I don't know how much further we're going to go from here, but I like our chances."

"I think we earned it," Bills quarterback Jim Kelly said. "Definitely, we earned it this year to be in the position we are."

The Giants will be home next weekend against Minnesota in a wild-card game.

Detroit won the NFC Central by beating Green Bay 30-20 and will be host to -yes, the Packers - next weekend.

New England's 33-27 overtime win against Miami placed the Dolphins' playoff hopes in jeopardy. But Pittsburgh's 16-9 victory against Cleveland kept its chances alive.

Also, Kansas City beat Seattle 34-24 and Phoenix took Atlanta 27-10.

In later games, it was Denver at the Los Angeles Raiders and the New York Jets at Houston.

On Monday night, it's Philadelphia at San Francisco, which has won the NFC West.

On Friday, the Vikings won 14-9 at Washington to clinch the final NFC playoff spot.

Cowboys 16, Giants 13, OT

At East Rutherford, N.J., Emmitt Smith was superb again for Dallas despite playing the second half and overtime with a sprained and partially separated right shoulder. He ran for 168 yards and caught 10 passes.

"My heart is as big as the world and I wanted this game very badly so this team can have a week off," said Smith, his arm in a sling after the game. "The Giants did everything they could possibly do, but we gutted it out and won."

Eddie Murray's 41-yard field goal with 4:16 left in overtime lifted the Cowboys, who dominated the first half and led 13-0. But poor judgment by punt returner Kevin Williams got the Giants back into the game. Williams misplayed a partially blocked punt and New York recovered, then scored a touchdown.

David Treadwell tied it with a 31-yard field goal with 10 seconds left in regulation as the Giants appeared to play for a tie - they never tried a pass into the end zone on their final fourth-quarter possession.

"If I knew what the score would be at the end, 16-13, yeah, I would have tried to throw," said New York coach Dan Reeves.

Bills 30, Colts 10

At Indianapolis, Thurman Thomas rushed for 110 yards and one touchdown and Jim Kelly and Frank Reich passed for one TD apiece.

Buffalo (12-4) finished with four straight victories for the first time since 1973 as it seeks a fourth consecutive trip to the Super Bowl. The Bills have won six straight home playoff games.

"It's very big," Kelly said. "Especially the week off. I'm kind of sore, and some other players I know are too. Any time you play in our backyard with the weather conditions and those 80,000 crazy people, it's definitely a plus for us."

Indianapolis (4-12), which lost four fumbles, ended the season with its eighth loss in nine games.

Lions 30, Packers 20

At Pontiac, Mich., the Lions finished with a surge - with Erik Kramer and without Barry Sanders - to win the NFC Central for the second time in three years. Kramer, 3-1 after being named starting quarterback, threw an 8-yard, fourth-quarter touchdown pass to Rodney Holman, and Sanders' replacement, Eric Lynch, had 115 yards and two TDs. Jason Hanson added field goals for the Lions (10-6), who were in first place for an entire season for the first time since 1954.

Sterling Sharpe had six receptions for 33 yards, giving him 112 catches for the season, breaking his own NFL record of 108 receptions in 1992. But Brett Favre threw four interceptions.

Patriots 33, Dolphins 27, OT

At Foxboro, Mass., Drew Bledsoe, looking like a No. 1 overall draft selection, threw for four TDs, including a 36-yarder to Michael Timpson in overtime. Bledsoe, who was 27-for-43 for 329 yards, led the Patriots (5-11) to their fourth straight win. It was only the third time in the 1990s that New England has defeated a team with a winning record.

The Dolphins (9-7 after being 9-2) rallied several times in the second half and sent the game into overtime when Pete Stoyanovich kicked a 24-yard field goal with six seconds left.

"After having the season that we had going for us, and then not being able to win - especially these last two weeks when we knew we had to win to clinch and not being able to do it - is just a disappointment that we're going to have to live with," said Miami coach Don Shula, "and that's something that's going to be tough to handle."

Steelers 16, Browns 9

At Pittsburgh, the Steelers (9-7) stayed alive in the playoff race by rallying from a 9-3 halftime deficit. Eric Green put Pittsburgh up 13-9 with 7:16 remaining on Neil O'Donnell's 14-yard pass. Green had six catches for 65 yards.

Pro Bowl kicker Gary Anderson hit three field goals and finished the season 28-for-30.

Matt Stover kicked three field goals for Cleveland, which once was 3-0 and 5-2, but finished 7-9.

Chiefs 34, Seahawks 24

At Kansas City, Mo., the AFC West champion Chiefs (11-5) built a 24-3 lead, then nearly blew it when Joe Montana was relieved by Dave Krieg.

But Tim Newton recovered Rick Mirer's fumble on the Seahawks' 11 with 2:03 left, Todd McNair scored from the 2 to seal it.

The Seahawks, behind Mirer's rookie passing records - 274 completions in 486 tries for 2,833 yards - went from 2-14 to 6-10.

Cardinals 27, Falcons 10

At Atlanta, the Cardinals (7-9) might have saved Joe Bugel's job with their ninth straight strong effort and fourth win in the final five games. Bugel received a mandate from team owner Bill Bidwill to win at least nine games this season, but the team's showing in the second half of the schedule might be enough for Bugel to stay.

Steve Beuerlein set a Phoenix record of 14 conseuctive complete passes to start the game. Beuerlein completed 27 of 33 for 278 yards and three touchdowns - two to Randal Hill. Rookie Ron Moore, who didn't start the Cardinals' first five games, gained 96 yards for 1,018 for the season.

The Falcons (6-10) began the season 0-5 and lost their last three under Jerry Glanville, whose job also is believed to be in jeopardy.

Rams 20, Bears 6

At Anaheim, Calif., Jerome Bettis completed the sixth best rookie rushing season in NFL history, running for 146 yards and a touchdown to lead the Los Angeles Rams to a 20-6 over the Chicago Bears.

Bettis, who carried a club-record 39 times against the Bears (7-9), finished with 1,429 yards, the highest rookie total since Detroit's Barry Sanders had 1,470 yards in 1989. The former Notre Dame star finished just short of catching Dallas' Emmitt Smith (1,486) for the NFL rushing title.

Smith had 168 yards in the Cowboys' 16-13 overtime win against the New York Giants.

With the Rams (5-11) holding a 13-6 lead late in the game, Bettis clinched the victory with a 4-yard TD run with 1:56 left. The loss was the fourth straight for the Bears.

The victory cost the Rams any chance at the No. 1 pick in the draft next spring, and cost the Bears, who had been knocked out of the playoffs the pervious week, a .500 season under first-year coach Dave Wannstedt.

Saints 20, Bengals 13

At New Orleans, Eric Martin, who has receptions in 105 straight games, caught a 54-yarder for the winning touchdown Sunday as the New Orleans Saints beat the Cincinnati Bengals 20-13.

The Saints won their first five games, but finished 8-8, making them one of just three teams since the NFL-AFL merger in 1970 not to make the playoffs after starting 5-0 or better.

It also left them as one of three teams that have not had a losing season in the last eight years. The others are San Francisco and Houston.

But the Saints still are the only team in the league without a playoff victory.

The Bengals (3-13) finished with the worst record in the league and the No. 1 pick in the draft.

Chargers 32, Bucs 17

At Tampa, Fla., John Carney gave San Diego the lead for good, then let the Chargers defense take over in the last six minutes of Sunday's 32-17 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Carney's fourth field goal, a 45-yarder in a light rain, put the Chargers ahead 19-17 with 6:17 remaining. Duane Young and Natrone Means scored touchdowns set up by interceptions as San Diego broke open a close game.

Darrien Gordon's interception, which appeared to hit the ground before he scooped it up, led to Young's 12-yard TD reception from Stan Humphries, who also threw a 48-yard scoring pass to Anthony Miller in the first half.

Raiders 33, Broncos 30, OT

At Los Angeles, Jeff Jaeger ended one of the wildest games of the NFL season and kicked the Los Angeles Raiders into the playoffs Sunday with a 47-yard field goal for a 33-30 overtime victory over the Denver Broncos.

The teams get to do it all over in the playoffs next weekend, at the Los Angeles Coliseum.

The Raiders (10-6) forced the overtime by scoring a touchdown on the final play of the fourth quarter, capping an improbable 17-point comeback.