Colts, Bengals make playoffs with wins

One year after putting together the NFL’s worst record, the

Indianapolis Colts are headed to the playoffs.

Joining them on Sunday were the Cincinnati Bengals, finishing

out the field in the AFC.

The Colts (10-5) equaled the 2008 Miami Dolphins as the only

teams to win at least 10 games after losing 14 or more the previous

season. Top overall draft pick Andrew Luck completed a 7-yard

touchdown pass to Reggie Wayne late in the fourth quarter for a

20-13 victory at Kansas City.

Cincinnati qualified for a second straight postseason berth for

only the second time in franchise history, edging archrival

Pittsburgh 13-10. The Bengals have never gone to the playoffs in

successive years that did not involve a strike-shortened

season.

Luck finished with 205 yards passing to break Cam Newton’s

year-old rookie record of 4,051 yards in a season. He also extended

his rookie record for fourth-quarter comebacks to seven by leading

his team downfield in the closing minutes.

”Mission accomplished. That’s all I can say,” Colts interim

coach Bruce Arians said. ”Without getting emotional again, knowing

that (coach Chuck Pagano) is going to be back Monday, the work week

shouldn’t be as stressful.”

Pagano has been sidelined since a loss to Jacksonville in Week

3.

For the Bengals (9-6), Andy Dalton hit A.J. Green with a 21-yard

pass in the final moments, setting up Josh Brown’s 43-yard field

goal with 4 seconds remaining. The loss eliminated the Steelers

from contention.

”A lot of people talked about we hadn’t been in in back-to-back

seasons in 30 years,” Green said. ”I don’t worry about that

stuff. I’ve been here two years and we made the playoffs all two

years. That’s all we can control.”

Minnesota’s 23-6 win at Houston prevented the Texans from

earning home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs. AFC South

champion Houston (12-3) still can get that by winning at

Indianapolis in the season finale.

New England has won the AFC East, Denver the West. Baltimore

clinched the North by beating the New York Giants 33-14, sending

the defending Super Bowl champions to the brink of elimination.

Washington’s 27-20 win at Philadelphia, combined with New

Orleans beating Dallas 34-31 in overtime means the Redskins (9-6)

will win the NFC East by beating the Cowboys next week.

But Dallas (8-7) takes the division by winning that game at

Washington, which the league has flexed to prime time.

”They know what it means,” coach Mike Shanahan said. ”They’ve

been working toward this opportunity to win the division. Any time

you win the division, everybody knows you have a home game in the

playoffs. We talked about that from Day 1. They knew what we had to

do to get there. We haven’t accomplished anything yet.”

Green Bay clinched at least the third seed in the NFC when it

routed Tennessee 55-7. The NFC North champs (11-4) still could wind

up second overall in the conference and get a bye and moved into

the No. 2 slot when Seattle romped over San Francisco 42-13.

”We have momentum going for us, particularly what we’ve done

over the last nine weeks, 10 weeks,” coach Mike McCarthy said of

Green Bay’s nine wins in the last 10 games. ”So we wanted to take

the next step as a football team and I felt we were able to

accomplish that today.”

The 49ers (10-4-1) will win the NFC West by beating Arizona next

weekend. Seattle (10-5) earned at least a wild-card spot and

finishes at home against St. Louis.

On Saturday night, NFC South winner Atlanta won 31-18 at Detroit

to clinch home-field advantage throughout the conference

playoffs.

Minnesota (9-6), Chicago (9-6), the New York Giants (8-7) and

Washington could wind up with the final NFC wild card. Dallas can’t

get a wild card.

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