The Central Division completed a sweep of the NFC wild-card playoff berths Saturday even though two of the postseason qualifiers were idle and another lost.

Kansas City and New England grabbed the unclaimed spots in the AFC, and San Diego earned a first-round bye.Green Bay's 34-19 victory over Tampa Bay not only secured the Packers a playoff berth, but also eliminated the New York Giants. And when the Giants defeated undermanned Dallas 15-10, that crushed the hopes of Arizona, which then lost 10-6 at Atlanta.

New England finished off a sensational surge with its seventh straight victory, 13-3 at Chicago, and grabbed an AFC playoff spot. The Bears (9-7) advanced along with Green Bay (9-7) in the NFC Central despite the loss. New York's victory got Chicago in.

The other two Central teams - Detroit and Minnesota - did not play Saturday. Detroit (9-6) is at Miami Sunday night, and Minnesota (9-6) is home against San Francisco Monday night.

If the Vikings win, they take the NFC Central crown. If they lose and the Lions win, Detroit finishes first. If both lose, Green Bay gets the division title.

"I'm going to watch some TV, that's for sure," Packers coach Mike Holmgren said. "It's a special day. We've had our backs to the wall all season. If the breaks fall right, we'll host a playoff game next week."

And if the Lions beat Miami, New England wins the AFC East. A Dolphins victory gives them the division championship.

"This is about as happy as I've been in a long time," Patriots coach Bill Parcells said. "This is personally gratifying. Yes, very much so."

Regardless, all four NFC Central qualifiers will play in the opening round of the playoffs next weekend. In the AFC, Cleveland, which beat Seattle 35-9, will play at home next weekend.

Kansas City's 19-9 victory over the Los Angeles Raiders boosted the Chiefs into the playoffs and sent the Raiders home.

AFC Central champion Pittsburgh, which lost to AFC West winner San Diego 37-34, already had secured a bye next week. So did San Francisco and Dallas in the NFC.

Browns 35, Seahawks 9

The Browns will be right back in Cleveland Stadium for a wild-card game next week. They finished off the stingiest defensive season in franchise history, limiting opponents to 204 points, easily a team record for a 16-game season and the fewest for an AFC team since Pittburgh yielded 195 in 1978.

The 11 wins are the Browns' most since they went 12-4 in 1986.

Seattle (6-10) lost eight starters, including quarterback Rick Mirer, to injuries this season.

Colts 10, Bills 9

It was an ignominious end to the Bills' four-year hold on the AFC title. Buffalo (7-9) had its first losing record since 1987, the year before it began dominating the East.

Typifying the Bills' season, Buffalo had a chance to win on the final play of the game, but Steve Christie's 46-yard field goal try bounced off the right upright.

Marshall Faulk rushed for 82 yards, giving him a team rookie record 1,282 for the season. Indianapolis finished 8-8.

Bengals 33, Eagles 30

Philadelphia's rapid collapse was emphasized by this defeat, its seventh straight. The Eagles (7-9) blew a 17-point lead in the second half and let the Bengals (3-13) kick two field goals in the final 3 seconds.

Doug Pelfrey tied it with a 22-yarder. The Eagles' Brian O'Neal flubbed the squibbed kickoff to turn the ball over with :01 left. Pelfrey hit a low, wobbly kick from 54 yards as time expired.

Saints 30, Broncos 28

At Denver, Jim Everett threw for 343 yards and three touchdowns before being injured. Backup Wade Wilson made the lead stand up for New Orleans (7-9). Torrance Small caught six passes for a career-high 200 yards, including TD catches of 36 and 75 yards.

Denver (7-9) made it close as Hugh Millen threw a 5-yard touchdown pass to Shannon Sharpe with 44 seconds to go. The Saints, however, recovered the onside kick.

Redskins 24, Rams 21

View Comments

In what might be the Rams' last game at Anaheim - they are negotiating a move to St. Louis - a crowd of 25,705, the smallest in the NFL this season, saw Los Angeles (4-12) lose its seventh in a row.

The Redskins finished 3-13, their worst record since they were 1-12-1 in 1961.

Oilers 24, Jets 10

At Houston, the Jets (6-10) dropped their fifth straight as the Oilers, ranked 28th in scoring, had their best offensive output of the season with 382 yards. It was Houston's first victory since it defeated Cincinnati 20-13 on Sept. 25.

Join the Conversation
Looking for comments?
Find comments in their new home! Click the buttons at the top or within the article to view them — or use the button below for quick access.