LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – The New England Patriots, Dallas Cowboys, Houston Texans and Seattle Seahawks all punched tickets to the National Football League (NFL) playoffs after a wild Sunday that further shaped the post-season.
The Seattle Seahawks (9-6) delivered an impressive 38-31 home victory over the Kansas City Chiefs (11-4) in the final game of the evening to ensure they are returning to the playoffs.
The Kansas City Chiefs could have clinched the NFC West division with a triumph but could not overcome the hostile Seattle environment.
The Houston Texans (10-5) needed some assistance after suffering a final-second 32-30 defeat to the Philadelphia Eagles.
By virtue of Pittsburgh’s loss to New Orleans, Houston is assured the post-season.
They can wrap up the AFC South with a win in next week’s regular season finale.
The five-time Super Bowl champion New England Patriots (10-5) wrapped up their 10th consecutive American Football Conference (AFC) East title with a 24-12 win over the Buffalo Bills.
“We just have grinded it out,” New England’s Tom Brady told reporters of his team’s latest division crown.
“I think part of playing in the NFL is over the course of 16 weeks, you see how things shake out – not after September, October, November.
“It’s really after the end of December. We’ve still got one hugely important game left and we need to finish strong.”
The Dallas Cowboys (9-6) claimed the National Football Conference (NFC) East crown by turning back the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 27-20.
The reigning Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles (8-7) kept their slim playoff hopes alive by upsetting Houston Texans 32-30 on a 35-yard field goal as time expired.
Three teams had clinched divisional titles before Sunday’s games – Chicago Bears (NFC North), New Orleans Saints (NFC South) and Los Angeles Rams (NFC West) – with two more assured of playoff spots – the Kansas City Chiefs and Los Angeles Chargers.
The Kansas City Chiefs can still clinch the AFC West with a win next week against the Oakland Raiders.
The Steelers and Baltimore Ravens will each be fighting for the AFC North crown and the final spot in the AFC playoffs next week.
The playoffs begin on January 5 with the Super Bowl set for February 3 in Atlanta.