Posted: 9:15 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 22, 2013
By Matthew Fairburn
A few more pieces fell into place with the NFL playoff picture on Sunday.
With a dramatic late drive by Cam Newton, the Carolina Panthers are heading to the playoffs -- and have a shot to finish the season as NFC South Champions.
A 17-13 win over the Saints was all Carolina needed to clinch a playoff spot. A win against the Falcons next week will give them the division, as would a loss and a Saints loss to Tampa Bay. New Orleans has the tiebreaker, so they could've clinched the division and a first-round bye with a win against the Panthers today.
The Cowboys' win against the Redskins kept them in the fight to win the NFC East, as they try to catch the Eagles. Philadelphia plays Chicago on Sunday Night Football tonight.
In the AFC, the Broncos clinched the AFC West by soundly beating the Houston Texans, which, coupled with a loss by the Chiefs to the Colts, ensures Denver will end the season at least tied in the standings with Kansas City. Since the Broncos won both regular season matchups with Kansas City, they'll get the tiebreaker. No team besides Kansas City can catch Denver in terms of total wins, so the Broncos will be the No. 1 seed and will relax with a first-round bye while the Chiefs will have to play a game during the Wild Card round of the playoffs.
The Bengals' win over Minnesota leaves them in pretty solid position to win the AFC North: a loss in either of the Ravens' final two games will give Cincinnati the division. Baltimore plays New England this afternoon, and a Patriots win will seal their division title.
In the ugly fight for the sixth and final playoff spot, the Ravens are currently in. The Dolphins' loss to a hapless Bills squad is a killer, as Baltimore can seal their spot in the drivers' seat with a win at New England.
(X) - clinched playoff berth (Y) - clinched division
No. 1 - (Y) Denver 12-3
No. 2 - New England 10-4
No. 3 - Cincinnati 10-5
No. 4 - (Y) Indianapolis 10-5
No. 5 - (X) Kansas City 11-4
No. 6 - Baltimore 8-6
In the hunt: Miami (8-7), San Diego (7-7), New York Jets (7-8), Pittsburgh (6-8)
No. 1 - (X) Seattle 12-2
No. 2 - Carolina 11-4
No. 3 - Philadelphia 8-6
No. 4 - Chicago 8-6
No. 5 - New Orleans 10-5
No. 6 - San Francisco 10-4
In the hunt: Arizona (9-5), Detroit (7-7), Dallas (8-7), Green Bay (7-6-1)