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NFL Week 15: 2 rules league could stand to change

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(PhatzRadio Sports / AP)   —   Well, no one STILL seems to agree on what, exactly, should constitute a catch in the NFL — and that contributed to the Pittsburgh Steelers’ loss to the New England Patriots in a key game for home-field advantage in the AFC playoffs.

It’s also hard to find folks who like the provision that awards possession of the football to the team on defense after an offensive player fumbles it out of the end zone — and that (along with, yes, what appeared to be a folded index card used to determine whether there was a first down) helped the Dallas Cowboys beat the Oakland Raiders to keep their postseason hopes intact as Ezekiel Elliott prepares to return from a suspension.

Two of the most confounding pieces of the NFL rulebook took center stage at the end of key games Sunday, and the results could have a real impact on who ends up reaching the Super Bowl.

Maybe this offseason, the competition committee will, once and for all, alter the ways one — or even both — of these situations are handled. Until that happens, there will be questions and complaints.

Which, when you think about it, might be what the league wants: Such conversations mean attention.

New England clinched a record ninth consecutive division title with a 27-24 victory at Pittsburgh that came after Ben Roethlisberger’s apparent 10-yard TD pass to Jesse James with 28 seconds left was erased because, as referee Tony Corrente, explained: “The receiver did not survive the ground.”

As James twisted and lunged into the end zone at the play’s finish, he extended the ball, which shifted in his hands. The call was called the way the NFL says it should be .

But CBS announcers Tony Romo and Jim Nantz were so unaware that was even an issue that they only were trying to figure out whether James might have been touched by a defender before the football crossed the goal line.

“There’s no doubt it’s going to hold up,” Nantz declared.

Asked later how he felt about the eventual replay ruling, Steelers coach Mike Tomlin replied: “It’s really irrelevant how I feel about it, to be honest with you. It’s not going to change the outcome of the game. I’m not going to cry over spilled milk.”

Both teams are 11-3; the Patriots’ win puts them on a path to host a possible rematch in the conference championship game.

And there were so many other talking points afterward, including just how serious Steelers receiver Antonio Brown’s left calf injury is; what went on with the last-minute decision-making by Roethlisberger, who compounded the damage done by the James call by faking a spike and then forcing a throw on a slant into the end zone that got intercepted with 5 seconds to go; and why Pittsburgh allowed New England tight end Rob Gronkowski to roam free with single-man coverage.

At night, Dallas’ 20-17 victory at Oakland was sealed when Raiders QB David Carr lost his grip on the football while reaching for the end zone on a scramble from the 8. The ball crossed the goal line, then went out the side of the end zone — a turnover and a touchback.

Why not give the offense the ball where the player lost possession? Or back the offense up to the 25? Or come up with some other solution that doesn’t reward the defense for having done absolutely nothing to prevent a score?

That wasn’t the most bizarre moment of the game. Or even the entire NFL day. No, that was reserved for referee Gene Steratore’s decision to try sliding what appeared to be an index card between the tip of the ball and the end of the chain when measuring for a first down. When he determined the card didn’t fit, Steratore awarded a first down to Dallas (8-6), which wound up kicking the go-ahead field goal on that drive.

“That was interesting,” Cowboys QB Dak Prescott said. “Him measuring with the paper.”

In case you missed it, here are the other top topics after the NFL season’s 15th Sunday:

RICHARDSON’S GONE

Hours after the NFL said it would take over the investigation into workplace misconduct by Carolina Panthers owner Jerry Richardson — and after Sports Illustrated reported, citing unnamed sources, that confidential payouts had been made for sexual harassment and using a racial slur — he announced he will sell the team after the season. Among those immediately throwing their hats in the ring as possible buyers were musician/actor Diddy and two-time NBA MVP Steph Curry.

HELLO AND GOODBYE, A-ROD

Aaron Rodgers returned after missing two months with a broken collarbone and threw a career-high-tying three interceptions in the Green Bay Packers’ 31-24 loss at Carolina. The Packers were all but eliminated from the playoffs; they haven’t missed out since 2008.

BREAK UP THE JAGS

So bad for so, so long, the Jacksonville Jaguars earned their first postseason berth in a decade by easily beating the Houston Texans 45-7. QB Blake Bortles threw three TDs in the first half for the first time in his career.

WELCOME BACK, TEDDY TWO GLOVES

With an NFC North-clinching 34-7 win over the Cincinnati Bengals a foregone conclusion, the Minnesota Vikings gave Teddy Bridgewater his first regular-season game action since January 2016. And his first pass since tearing up his knee? Intercepted.

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Week 15 fantasy football takeaways: Nick Foles fits fine with Eagles

The quarterback transition in Philadelphia sure was a smooth one as veteran Nick Foles made his first start in place of injured starter Carson Wentz.

Foles, who threw 27 touchdown passes and only two interceptions as the Eagles’ starter in 2013, made a triumphant return Sunday. He threw for 237 yards and four touchdowns — to four different receivers.

Fantasy owners should feel confident starting Foles at home next week against the Oakland Raiders in their league championship game.

Back in the saddle

The other major story involving a quarterback was the return of Aaron Rodgers to the Green Bay Packers for the first time since he broke his collarbone in Week 6.

Rodgers was solid, but a bit rusty as well. He completed 26-pf-45 passes for 290 yards and three touchdowns … but he was also intercepted three times.

Fantasy owners expecting Rodgers to rekindle his old magic with wide receiver Jordy Nelson were sadly disappointed. Nelson caught three of his six targets for a total of 28 yards.

Doubly painful

Pittsburgh Steelers wideout Antonio Brown has been one of the league’s most consistent receivers, but a partially torn calf muscle cut his day short. Brown suffered the injury in the second quarter and finished with just two catches for 24 yards.

Even if you survived the injury and still managed to win your playoff semifinal without Brown’s usual contributions, the injury is still devastating because he won’t play in next week’s title game.

Early waiver wire

It’s almost impossible to find someone available on the waiver wire who’s good enough to start when a fantasy title is on the line, but Jaguars wide receiver Keelan Cole might be one of those players. Cole stepped forward when Marqise Lee exited with an ankle injury, catching seven passes for 186 yards and a touchdown, and could start next week at San Francisco.

If owners in your league gave up on the return of Carolina Panthers tight end Greg Olsen from a foot injury, his nine receptions for 116 yards and a score showed he’s back. He has a great Week 16 matchup at home vs. Tampa Bay.

The injury-ravaged Washington Redskins promoted running back Kapri Bibbs from the practice squad this week. Inserted into the third-down role, Bibbs caught all four of his targets for 47 yards and a touchdown.

Broad Shoulders Award

Our weekly honor for the player who single-handedly carried his fantasy teams to victory goes to Los Angeles Rams running back Todd Gurley.

Could it have been anyone else?

Gurley was in a class all his own, rushing 21 times for 152 yards (7.2 yards per carry) and three touchdowns. He also caught three passes for 28 yards and another score.

In standard leagues, Gurley’s performance was good enough for 42 fantasy points — the highest total for any player in a single week this season. In leagues that award a point per reception, Gurley’s 45 points rank third behind Julio Jones in Week 12 (50.8) and Kareem Hunt in Week 1 (45.6).

Gurley may have been one of 2016’s biggest fantasy busts, but he’s awfully close to being 2017’s fantasy MVP.

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Follow Howard Fendrich on Twitter at http://twitter.com/HowardFendrich

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For more NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP_NFL

NFL playoff picture after Week 15

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(PhatzRadio Sports / USA Today Sports / AP)    —   Here’s how the NFL playoff picture looks after Week 15’s Sunday afternoon games.

AFC
1. x-New England Patriots (11-3): AFC East champion. They escaped Pittsburgh with their 15th division title in 17 seasons and a clear path to home-field advantage.

2. x-Pittsburgh Steelers (11-3): AFC North champion. After a gut-wrenching loss, they’re now facing the likelihood of once again having to go through Foxborough to reach the Super Bowl.

3. Jacksonville Jaguars (10-4): AFC South leader. They’re playoff-bound for the first time since 2007 and still have a reasonable shot at a first-round bye.

4. Kansas City Chiefs (8-6): AFC West leader. Not only did Saturday’s win over the Chargers give K.C. vital breathing room, but the Chiefs’ schedule now gets quite favorable as they finish against the Dolphins and Broncos. They need win only one of those games to put a bow on the division.

5. Tennessee Titans (8-6): Wild card No. 1. They’re doing their best to drop out of the field. But a 7-4 conference record keeps them ahead of Buffalo and Baltimore. However next week’s date with the Rams looks like major trouble.

6. Buffalo Bills (8-6): Wild card No. 2. They’re desperately trying to snap the longest playoff drought in major North American professional team sports (it dates to 1999). The strength of victory tiebreaker keeps Buffalo ahead of the Ravens, who are being undermined by their defeats of the winless Browns.

In the hunt: Baltimore Ravens (8-6), Los Angeles Chargers (7-7), Oakland Raiders (6-8)

x-division winner

NFC
1. xy-Philadelphia Eagles (12-2): NFC East champion. Life after Carson Wentz had a hairy beginning, but the Iggles survived the Giants to ensure themselves at least a first-round bye.

2. x-Minnesota Vikings (11-3): NFC North champion. Newly crowned division champions still have shot at home-field advantage … and a shot to play Super Bowl at home.

3. Los Angeles Rams (10-4): NFC West leader. They gave the Seahawks a shocking beating at CenturyLink Field that likely means L.A. is headed to postseason while Seattle probably isn’t.

4. New Orleans Saints (10-4): NFC South leader. Surprisingly struggled against punchless Jets but managed to retain division lead.

5. Carolina Panthers (10-4): Wild card No. 1. Technically tied for first place but getting swept by Saints keeps Panthers on wild-card path.

6. Atlanta Falcons (8-5): Wild card No. 2. They’ve beaten the Seahawks, Lions and Cowboys, so Atlanta can afford a loss Monday night, though it obviously wouldn’t be ideal. A Falcons win eliminates Green Bay.

In the hunt: Seattle Seahawks (8-6), Detroit Lions (8-6), Dallas Cowboys (8-6), Green Bay Packers (7-7)

x-division winner
y-first-round bye

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SCOREBOARD

Monday, Dec. 17

Atlanta at Tampa Bay, 8:30 p.m. EST. This is the second meeting between the teams in four games, with the Falcons (8-5) having won the last time 34-20 in Atlanta as Julio Jones caught a season-best 12 passes for 253 yards and two touchdowns. Jameis Winston and the Buccaneers (4-9) hope to play spoiler, with the first of three games against NFC South rivals to end the regular season.

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STARS

Passing

— Blake Bortles, Jaguars, threw three touchdown passes, including two to seldom-used backup Jaydon Mickens, and for a season-high 326 yards as Jacksonville clinched a playoff spot with a 45-7 rout of Houston.

— Cam Newton, Panthers, passed for 242 yards and four touchdowns, and the Panthers spoiled Aaron Rodgers’ return from a broken collarbone with a 31-24 win over the Green Bay Packers.

— Nick Foles, Eagles, threw four touchdown passes in his first start replacing the injured Carson Wentz, leading Philadelphia to a first-round playoff bye with a 34-29 victory over the New York Giants.

— Jimmy Garoppolo, 49ers, threw for a career-high 381 yards and a touchdown to help San Francisco top Tennessee 25-23.

— Drew Brees, Saints, completed 26 of 36 passes for 285 yards and two touchdowns, and also was intercepted in New Orleans’ 31-19 win over the New York Jets.

— Eli Manning, Giants, passed for a season-high 434 yards with three touchdowns in New York’s 34-29 loss to Philadelphia.

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Rushing

— Todd Gurley, Rams, rushed for 152 yards and three touchdowns on 21 carries and caught three passes for 28 yards and a score to lead Los Angeles past Seattle 42-7.

— Mark Ingram, Saints, ran for two touchdowns and gained 151 yards from scrimmage, capped by his late 50-yard TD run, and New Orleans beat the New York Jets 31-19.

— Le’Veon Bell, Steelers, rushed for 117 yards and added another 48 receiving in Pittsburgh’s 27-24 loss to New England.

— LeSean McCoy, Bills, scored twice and became the 30th player to reach 10,000 yards rushing, helping Buffalo beat the Miami Dolphins 24-16.

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Receiving

— Keelan Cole, Jaguars, had seven receptions for a career-high 186 yards and a TD in Jacksonville’s 45-7 victory over Houston.

— Rob Gronkowski, Patriots, returned from a one-game suspension to finish with nine receptions for 168 yards in New England’s 27-24 win at Pittsburgh.

— Greg Olsen, Panthers, caught nine passes for 116 yards and a TD to help Carolina top Green Bay 31-24.

— Sterling Shepard, Giants, had 11 receptions for 139 yards and a score in New York’s 34-29 loss to Philadelphia.

— Jerick McKinnon, Vikings, caught seven passes for 114 yards in a 34-7 win over Cincinnati for the first 100-yard receiving game for a Minnesota running back since Onterrio Smith in 2004.

— Michael Thomas, Saints, had nine receptions for 93 yards and a touchdown in New Orleans’ 31-19 win over the New York Jets.

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Special Teams

— Robbie Gould, 49ers, made a winning 45-yard field goal as time expired — his sixth successful kick of the game — to help lift San Francisco over Tennessee 25-23.

— Philadelphia Eagles became the first team since 1991 to block a field goal, extra point and punt in the same game, accomplishing the feat in a 34-29 win over the New York Giants.

— Sam Koch, Ravens, booted four punts inside Cleveland’s 20-yard line, giving him a league-high 37 this season, and helping Baltimore to a 27-10 win.

— Phil Dawson, Cardinals, accounted for all of Arizona’s points in a 20-15 loss at Washington with field goals of 40, 35, 19, 34 and 32 yards.

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Defense

— Brandon Williams, Ravens, recovered a fumble forced by Za’Darius Smith and shimmied across the goal line for a 1-yard score in Baltimore’s 27-10 win at Cleveland.

— Eric Kendricks, Vikings, returned an interception 31 yards for a touchdown in Minnesota’s 34-7 victory over Cincinnati.

— Aaron Donald, Rams, sacked Russell Wilson three times in Los Angeles’ 42-7 rout of Seattle.

— Anthony Lanier, Redskins, had two sacks, a forced fumble and batted down three passes in Washington’s 20-15 win over Arizona.

— Cameron Jordan, Saints, batted down four passes — three on third-down throws — in New Orleans’ 31-19 win over the New York Jets.

— James Bradberry, Panthers, stripped the ball from Packers wide receiver Geronimo Allison with 1:28 left to seal Carolina’s 31-24 win.

— Chandler Jones, Cardinals, earned his NFL-leading 15th sack of the season in Arizona’s 20-15 loss at Washington and is two shy of setting the franchise single-season record.

— Sean Smith, Raiders, intercepted two passes in Oakland’s 20-17 loss to Dallas.

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STREAKS & STATS

Jacksonville clinched a playoff spot for the first time since 2007 with a 45-7 drubbing of AFC South rival Houston on Sunday. It was the Jaguars’ seventh victory in its last eight games. … Minnesota coach Mike Zimmer won his first regular-season meeting against his old boss, Cincinnati’s Marvin Lewis, who lost to a former assistant for the first time in eight matchups, 34-7. Zimmer was the defensive coordinator for the Bengals from 2008-13. … The Bengals have never won in six all-time visits to Minnesota. … After Baltimore’s 27-10 victory over Cleveland, Joe Flacco’s .895 winning percentage against the Browns is the third best by an active quarterback against any opponent. Pittsburgh’s Ben Roethlisberger is 21-2 (.913) against Cleveland and New England’s Tom Brady is 27-3 (.900) against Buffalo. … Los Angeles’ Todd Gurley had 152 yards rushing, three TD runs and a TD catch in a 42-7 win at Seattle, joining Marshall Faulk (Oct. 20, 2002) as the only Rams in franchise history to have 150 or more yards rushing, three or more rushing TDs and a TD catch in a game.

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MILESTONES

New Orleans’ Michael Thomas had nine catches for 93 yards in the Saints’ 31-19 win over the New York Jets, giving him 94 receptions this season and making him the second NFL player with at least 90 receptions in each of his first two seasons — the other being the New York Giants’ Odell Beckham Jr. … Buffalo’s LeSean McCoy reached 10,000 career yards rushing on his 2,145th carry, becoming the fifth-fastest player in NFL history to achieve the milestone. The only players to reach 10,000 career rushing yards in fewer attempts are Jim Brown (1,936), Adrian Peterson (2,004), Barry Sanders (2,020) and O.J. Simpson (2,085). … Carolina’s Cam Newton has four seasons with at least 600 rushing yards, tying him with Michael Vick for the most such seasons by a quarterback in NFL history. … The Panthers’ Julius Peppers had a half-sack against Green Bay, making him the fourth player in NFL history to have at least 10 seasons with 10 or more sacks, joining Hall of Famers Bruce Smith (13 seasons), Reggie White (12) and Kevin Greene (10). … Jimmy Garoppolo became the first 49ers quarterback since the merger in 1970 to win each of his first three starts, and just the second QB to do so in franchise history. Y.A. Tittle did so spanning the 1951-52 seasons. … Oakland’s Derek Carr joined Dan Marino, Peyton Manning, Russell Wilson and Andrew Luck as the only players with at least 100 TD passes in their first four years in the NFL.

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TICKETS PUNCHED

Philadelphia, which had already clinched the NFC East, secured a first-round bye with a 34-29 win over the New York Giants. … Minnesota beat Cincinnati 34-7 and locked up the NFC North title. It marks the second division title for the Vikings in the past three seasons. … New England, which defeated Pittsburgh 27-24, secured the AFC East title. It’s the ninth consecutive division title for the Patriots (2009-17), the longest streak in NFL history. … Jacksonville defeated Houston 45-7 and clinched a playoff berth — the Jaguars’ first since 2007.

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RODGERS’ RETURN

Aaron Rodgers made his first appearance since Oct. 15 and threw for 290 yards with three touchdowns, but was intercepted three times in Green Bay’s 31-24 loss to Carolina. For a moment it looked as if the two-time league MVP was about to lead the Packers back from a 14-point fourth-quarter deficit. But a fourth Green Bay turnover — this time a fumble by wide receiver Geronimo Allison with 1:48 left — spelled doom. Rodgers had good velocity on his passes at times, and even ran for a few first downs in his first game back from a broken collarbone.

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BLOCK PARTY

Philadelphia became the first team to block a field goal, extra point and punt since 1991, doing it against the New York Giants in a 34-29 victory. Derek Barnett blocked Aldrick Rosas’ extra point attempt in the first quarter, Kamu Grugier-Hill knocked away Brad Wing’s punt in the second, and Malcolm Jenkins prevented Rosas’ 48-yard attempt in the fourth. The last team to accomplish the feat was Buffalo against New England on Nov. 24, 1991.

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STEPPING IN

Nick Foles threw four touchdown passes in his first start replacing the injured Carson Wentz, and helped the Philadelphia Eagles secure a first-round playoff bye by beating the New York Giants. Foles was 24 of 38 for 237 yards and no interceptions. The Eagles also became the first team since the 2011 Green Bay Packers with Aaron Rodgers and Matt Flynn to have different starting quarterbacks throw at least four touchdown passes in back-to-back weeks. … Bryce Petty made his first start at quarterback for the New York Jets, completing 19 of 39 passes for 179 yards and a touchdown in a 31-19 loss at New Orleans. He was intercepted twice — once by Craig Robertson on a tipped pass and once by Marshon Lattimore on a long, inconsequential throw as the game ended.

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BAD BROWNS

The Browns (0-14) went 0-8 at home — 0-7 in Cleveland, 0-1 in London — for the second time and must win at either Chicago or Pittsburgh to avoid joining the 2008 Detroit Lions in the notorious 0-16 club. Last season, the Browns avoided infamy by winning their final home game and finishing 1-15. Cleveland is 1-29 in two seasons under coach Hue Jackson, who is expected to be back despite his .033 winning percentage.

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DROUGHT BUSTERS?

Buffalo improved to 8-6 to match the team’s best record through 14 games during the team’s 17-year playoff drought — the longest active streak in North America’s four major professional sports. The Bills were 8-6 in both 2004 and 2014, but missed the playoffs with 9-7 finishes. Buffalo’s 6-2 home record was its best finish at Orchard Park since 1999. The Bills now hit the road to continue their playoff pursuit in closing the season at New England next week and then at Miami on Dec. 31.

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DOWNED SEAHAWKS

Seattle’s 34-0 halftime deficit in its 42-7 loss to the Los Angeles Rams was the largest for the Seahawks since the 2010 season — the first under Pete Carroll — when it trailed the New York Giants 35-0 at halftime on the way to a 41-7 loss. It was the largest halftime lead in a road game for the Rams in franchise history.

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SIDELINED

Pittsburgh wide receiver Antonio Brown left the Steelers’ 27-24 loss to New England in the second quarter with a left calf injury. Brown was helped to the medical tent, then taken to a hospital for further examination. Also, Pittsburgh rookie running back James Conner left with a sprained knee in the fourth quarter. … The Patriots lost running back Rex Burkhead with a knee injury in the first half. He did not return. … Green Bay wide receiver Davante Adams left in the third quarter of the Packers’ 31-24 loss at Carolina because of a concussion. … Jets defensive lineman Leonard Williams left in the third quarter against New Orleans with concussion symptoms. … The Giants had safety Landon Collins and linebacker B.J. Goodson leave against Philadelphia after aggravating ankle injuries. … Jacksonville wide receiver Marqise Lee injured his right ankle in the first quarter against Houston and was later ruled out.

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SPEAKING

“It’s a story of perseverance.” — Jaguars owner Shad Khan after the Jaguars clinched their first postseason berth since 2007 with a 45-7 drubbing of AFC South rival Houston on Sunday.

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“I’m not running from this. I have never gone any place and left it worse than when I found it. I’m not going to run from this. I’m going to be here and I need to get this fixed as fast as I can because I think it is important.” — Cleveland coach Hue Jackson after the Browns fell to 0-14 with a 27-10 loss to Baltimore.

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NFL Roundup: Dallas Cowboys keep playoff hopes alive when Raiders QB blunders

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(PhatzRadio Sports / AP)   —   OAKLAND, Calif. – Dallas kept its playoff hopes alive by the slimmest of margins after Dak Prescott converted a fourth-down sneak by the width of an index card to set up Dan Bailey’s go-ahead 19-yard field goal, and Derek Carr fumbled the ball inches from the goal line with 31 seconds left to give the Cowboys a 20-17 victory over the Oakland Raiders on Sunday night.

The first key play came when Cowboys coach Jason Garrett decided to go for it on fourth-and-1 from his own 39 with about five minutes left in a tie game. Prescott ran into a pile that took officials time to untangle.

Referee Gene Steratore then called for the chains to come out, but even that wasn’t enough. He then tried to slide what appeared to be an index card between the tip of the ball and the end of the chain. When the card didn’t slide through, Steratore gave Dallas (8-6) a first down.

Prescott then hit Dez Bryant with a 40-yard pass that set up Bailey’s short kick with 1:44 to play that gave the Cowboys the lead.

But the game was far from over. The Raiders (6-8) got a gift when Jourdan Lewis committed a 43-yard pass interference penalty on a fourth-and-10 from their own 30. Carr then scrambled on third-and-3 from the 8 and reached out for the end zone. But the ball came loose before crossing the goal line and went out of the end zone for a touchback that all but ended Oakland’s playoff hopes. The Raiders are tied for ninth in the AFC.

Dallas is in a three-way tie for seventh place in the NFC, a half-game behind Atlanta for the final playoff spot. The Falcons beat the Cowboys head-to-head.

The Cowboys got their third straight win without suspended star running back Ezekiel Elliott, who returns from a six-game suspension next week. But Dallas’ three straight losses at the start of the suspension created a hole the team is still trying to escape.

JAGUARS 45, TEXANS 7

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The Jacksonville Jaguars are returning to the playoffs for the first time in a decade thanks to a 45-7 drubbing of rival Houston.

Once the NFL’s poster child for futility and a punchline for potential relocation, the Jaguars (10-4) are now one of the league’s top turnaround stories.

Blake Bortles threw three touchdowns passes, including two to a reserve receiver who slept in his car earlier this season. The Jaguars won for the seventh time in eight games to clinch a postseason berth for the first time since 2007.

Bortles finished with a season-high 326 yards and the best QB rating (143.8) of his career, including 186 yards and a touchdown to rookie Keelan Cole. Primary punt returner Jaydon Mickens, who stepped in for injured starter Marqise Lee in the first quarter, caught four passes for 61 yards and two scores against the Texans (4-10).

The Jaguars were an NFL-worst 22-74 over the previous six years, more a laughingstock than a postseason contender.

PATRIOTS 27, STEELERS 24

PITTSBURGH – Tom Brady fed Rob Gronkowski repeatedly to set up Dion Lewis’ go-ahead 8-yard touchdown with 56 seconds remaining and Ben Roethlisberger was intercepted in the end zone with 5 seconds left.

The Patriots (11-3) gained the inside track for home-field advantage in the AFC playoffs by ending Pittsburgh’s eight-game winning streak. Brady threw for 298 yards with two touchdowns and an interception. Gronkowski, fresh off a one-game suspension, finished with nine receptions for 168 yards, including four on the winning drive.

It briefly looked like it wouldn’t be enough.

The Steelers (11-3), who played most of the game without injured star wide receiver Antonio Brown, appeared to take the lead when Roethlisberger connected with tight end Jesse James for a 10-yard touchdown with 28 seconds to left. The play was overturned on review, with official Tony Corrente saying the ball did not “survive” the completion of the catch.

Roethlisberger hit Darrius Heyward-Bey for a short gain, whp but stayed in bounds. With the clock running and no timeouts, rather than spike it to set up a short kick that would have sent the game to overtime, Roethlisberger tried to win it.

Instead, he lost it. His pass to Eli Rogers was batted into the air, and New England safety Duron Harmon came down with it. One kneel down later, the Patriots had their fifth straight victory over the Steelers.

Brown, the NFL’s leading receiver, went to a hospital having his left calf injury examined.

RAMS 42, SEAHAWKS 7

SEATTLE – Todd Gurley rushed for 152 yards and scored four total touchdowns in just 2 1/2 quarters, and the Rams moved to the cusp of their first division title since 2003.

The matchup to determine first place in the NFC West was completely one-sided. Los Angeles (10-4) was dominant, embarrassing Seattle into the worst loss during Pete Carroll’s eight seasons in charge.

Taking advantage of field position, the Rams scored on six of seven first-half drives, including a 21-point blitz in the second quarter capped by a 57-yard TD run by Gurley on third-and-20 with less than a minute remaining in the first half to take a 34-0 lead at the break.

Gurley had 144 yards rushing in the first half, twice scoring from the 1. He added a 14-yard TD reception midway through the third quarter for a 40-0 Rams lead and spent the rest of his day watching. The 152 yards rushing were the second best of his career.

The Rams don’t have the division wrapped up, but have a two-game lead with two weeks to play. A win against either Tennessee or San Francisco is enough for their first division title in 14 years.

49ERS 25, TITANS 23

SANTA CLARA, Calif. – Jimmy Garoppolo led one final scoring drive in the closing seconds to cap a fantastic first home start and Robbie Gould kicked a winning 45-yard field goal as time expired.

Garoppolo threw for a career-high 381 yards and a touchdown to give the 49ers (4-10) a three-game winning streak in a lost season. And Tom Brady’s former backup showed he could do it at home as well as on the road – and against a playoff contender, no less – outdueling Marcus Mariota down the stretch as the teams traded field goals.

Gould kicked three of his six field goals over the final nine minutes: 50, 48 and 45 yards, and has now gone 20 consecutive without a miss.

Gould put the Niners out front on a 48-yarder with 3:08 remaining. Mariota then drove the Titans (8-6) to a lead as Ryan Succop kicked a 50-yard field goal with 1:07 to play, then Garoppolo and the San Francisco offense got one last shot.

VIKINGS 34, BENGALS 7

MINNEAPOLIS – Eric Kendricks had an interception return for a touchdown, Case Keenum passed for 236 yards and two scores, and the Vikings clinched the NFC North over the depleted and disinterested Bengals.

Running backs Latavius Murray and Jerick McKinnon combined for 37 touches and 242 yards from scrimmage for the Vikings (11-3), who were given quite the reprieve on the schedule a week after their eight-game winning streak ended at Carolina in the last of three consecutive road trips. They were never challenged the Bengals (5-9), missing more than half of the starting defense to injuries, and met with a morning report by ESPN that head coach Marvin Lewis will not return next season .

The game went so smoothly that Teddy Bridgewater even made his grand entrance, his first live action in 16 months since a massive knee injury. Bridgewater’s first pass was intercepted, a high throw that bounced off McKinnon’s hands and into the arms of strong safety Shawn Williams deep in Vikings territory. That set up a short touchdown run by Giovani Bernard to keep the Bengals from being shut out for a second time this year.

Keenum completed 20 of 23 passes, including seven easy tosses to McKinnon for 114 yards in the first 100-yard receiving game for a Vikings running back since Onterrio Smith on Sept. 26, 2004, against Chicago.

Lewis who lost to a former assistant (Mike Zimmer) for the first time in eight matchups. Zimmer was the defensive coordinator for the Bengals from 2008-13.

EAGLES 34, GIANTS 29

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Nick Foles threw four touchdown passes in his first start replacing the injured Carson Wentz, and the Eagles secured a first-round playoff bye.

Foles hit 24 of 38 passes for 237 yards and no interceptions. The NFC East champion Eagles (12-2) made a late stand on first-and-goal in the final minute in edging the Giants (2-12) for the second time this season, spoiling a three-touchdown, season-high 434-yard passing game by Eli Manning.

Foles hit Alshon Jeffery, Zach Ertz, Trey Burton and Nelson Agholor on scoring passes ranging from 3 to 13 yards in filling in for Wentz, who tore an ACL last week and was lost for the season after a brilliant year.

The Eagles also got two field goals from Jake Elliott and three blocked kicks from their special teams, foiling an extra point, a punt and field goal. The block on the punt set up a touchdown.

Manning finished 37 of 57 and hit Tavarres King on two touchdowns and Sterling Shepard on one. It was Manning’s ninth career 400-yard game and his first since last season.

PANTHERS 31, PACKERS 24

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Cam Newton threw for 242 yards and four touchdowns, and the Panthers spoiled Aaron Rodgers’ return from a broken collarbone.

Damiere Byrd had two touchdown catches, and Christian McCaffrey had 136 yards from scrimmage, including a 7-yard touchdown reception as the Panthers (10-4) won their fourth straight home game.

Greg Olsen had his most productive game since returning from a broken foot, catching nine passes for 116 yards and a TD, and the Panthers kept pace with the first-place New Orleans Saints in the NFC South.

Rodgers, making his first appearance since Oct. 15, threw for 290 yards with three touchdowns, but was intercepted three times as the Packers’ playoff hopes took a critical blow.

Green Bay (7-7) had a chance to send the game into overtime for a third straight week. But cornerback James Bradberry stripped wide receiver Geronimo Allison of the ball with 1:48 remaining. Mike Adams recovered to finish off the Packers.

SAINTS 31, JETS 19

NEW ORLEANS – Mark Ingram ran for two touchdowns and gained 151 yards from scrimmage, including a late 50-yard TD run, and the Saints overcame three turnovers.

Michael Thomas became the second NFL player with at least 90 receptions in his first two seasons. He caught nine passes for 93 yards, including a pivotal fourth-quarter touchdown on a short slant for New Orleans (10-4), which retained its tenuous hold on first place in the NFC South heading into the final two weeks of the regular season.

Alvin Kamara turned a short catch into a 10-yard TD in his return from a concussion that knocked him out of the Saints’ loss at Atlanta a week earlier.

Bryce Petty made his first start at quarterback this season for the Jets (5-9), who were eliminated from playoff contention. Petty completed 19 of 39 passes for 179 yards and a touchdown, but was intercepted twice – once on a tipped pass and once on a long, inconsequential throw as the game ended.

His 2-yard touchdown pass to rookie Elijah McGuire cut New Orleans’ lead to 24-19 with 1:51 left. But the Jets’ onside kick failed and Ingram broke loose for his long score while the Saints were trying to run down the clock.

Drew Brees completed 26 of 36 passes for 285 yards and two touchdowns, but also was intercepted deep in his own territory to set up a Jets field goal at the end of the first half.

RAVENS 27, BROWNS 10

CLEVELAND – Joe Flacco threw a touchdown pass, ran for a score and beat Cleveland again as the Ravens stayed on track for the AFC playoffs.

With victories at home over Indianapolis and Cincinnati in its last two games, the Ravens will return to the postseason after a two-year absence.

The Browns are two losses from becoming the NFL’s second 0-16 team.

Flacco scored on a 2-yard run and threw a 33-yard TD pass to Benjamin Watson as the Ravens (8-6) took control with two touchdowns in the final 3:01 of the first half.

Defensive tackle Brandon Williams recovered a fumble and rolled in for a TD in third quarter to put the Ravens up 24-10.

The Browns (0-14) went 0-8 at home – 0-7 in Cleveland, 0-1 in London – for the second time and must win at either Chicago or Pittsburgh to avoid joining the 2008 Detroit Lions in the notorious 0-16 club. Last season, the Browns avoided infamy by winning their final home game and finishing 1-15.

Cleveland is 1-29 in two seasons under coach Hue Jackson, who is expected to be back despite his .033 winning percentage.

BILLS 24, DOLPHINS 16

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. – LeSean McCoy scored twice and surpassed 10,000 career yards rushing, while helping the Bills stay in the thick of the AFC playoff hunt.

Tyrod Taylor also scored on a 9-yard touchdown run and Shareece Wright and Jordan Poyer intercepted Miami’s Jay Cutler on consecutive drives to start the second half. Buffalo never trailed. Rookie Tre’Davious White sealed the win by intercepting Cutler with 28 seconds remaining – and one play after Miami punter Matt Haack recovered an onside kick at Miami’s 37.

The Bills have won three of four and improved to 8-6 to match the team’s best record through 14 games during Buffalo’s 17-year playoff drought – the longest active streak in North America’s four major professional sports. The Bills were 8-6 in both 2004 and 2014, but missed the playoffs with 9-7 finishes.

Buffalo also finished 6-2 at home to match its best finish at Orchard Park since 1999.

Buffalo must now hit the road to continue its playoff pursuit, closing the season at New England, then at Miami on Dec. 31.

The loss all but mathematically eliminated the Dolphins (6-8) from playoff contention.

REDSKINS 20, CARDINALS 15

LANDOVER, Md. – Anthony Lanier sacked Blaine Gabbert and forced a fumble that Preston Smith recovered and the Redskins held on to beat the Cardinals in a comedy of errors for each team.

Smith also intercepted Gabbert and Lanier batted down three passes and had two sacks as they gave the Redskins (6-8) a glimpse of their potential as significant pieces of the defense for years to come.

Gabbert was 16 of 41 for 189 yards with the interception and a fumble he recovered himself in the fourth quarter. Arizona (6-8), which got all its points on field goals by Phil Dawson, went 0 for 6 in the red zone and 4 for 19 on third down as it was eliminated from playoff contention.

Washington’s Kirk Cousins was 18 of 26 for 196 yards with touchdown passes to Jamison Crowder and new running back Kapri Bibbs. The Redskins were booed at times in the second half by fans in the announced crowd of 71,026.

NFL: AFC surprise? Breaking down four teams with best chance to stun Steelers, Patriots

This gallery contains 1 photo.

(PhatzRadio Sports / USA Today Sports)    —    There’s no question the Pittsburgh Steelers and New England Patriots have represented the AFC’s elite for much of this season.

It’s widely expected that those two, set to clash Sunday, will meet in the AFC Championship Game for the second consecutive season. I, too, firmly believe the rematch will materialize.

But a wacky 2017 season has proven it’s probably unwise to overlook anybody (well, anyone other than the Browns, and a few others). And despite their pedigree, the Steelers and Patriots have exhibited some signs of vulnerability.

The Jaguars, Chargers, Chiefs and Ravens, seem poised to make some noise down the stretch of the regular season and possibly the postseason. But do any have legitimate chances to upset the Steelers or Patriots? Here’s why they might, as well as why they might not:

Jacksonville Jaguars (9-4)

The Jaguars are one of the year’s most surprising teams, going from 3-13 in 2016 to a likely playoff squad this season. Jacksonville has victories over the Steelers, Seahawks and Chargers, and their early-season win over the Ravens now seems more meaningful. With the top-ranked defense that also leads the NFL in sacks (47) and takeaways (30), Jacksonville has a chance to win against any opponent. So, if you had to pick an upset special, the Jags are your best bet.

It’s ultimately really hard to believe in Jacksonville because of its quarterback. A dozen current and former NFL talent evaluators, coaches and quarterbacks unanimously put Blake Bortles in the category of “needs replacing” when asked by USA TODAY to rate the league’s starting quarterbacks who are 30 or under. Despite 85.8 passer ratings and 16 touchdown passes to go with eight interceptions, Bortles has done just enough to keep the Jaguars’ offense going. But if he’s asked to engage in a late-game shootout with Tom Brady or Ben Roethlisberger, Jacksonville is likely toast.

Los Angeles Chargers (7-6)

 After an 0-4 start, first-year coach Anthony Lynn has guided his squad to a turnaround. Los Angeles is currently the eighth seed but can break a tie for the AFC West lead in Saturday’s matchup with the Chiefs. If the Chargers do prevail, they could cause problems. They’re the only other team besides the Eagles and Steelers to boast a top 10 defense and top-five offense. They’ve got a mean pass rush (37 sacks, third in the NFL) and a veteran quarterback in Philip Rivers. Given how Brady has looked in recent weeks while battling an Achilles tendon injury, the Patriots would have to have some concern about facing a pass rush like that of the Chargers.

However, inconsistencies keep this squad in check. Outside of a romp of the 7-6 Bills, the Chargers don’t have a win against a team with winning record. In a 21-13 loss to the Patriots in Week 8, the Chargers’ pass rush was held in check and recorded just one sack on Brady. The defense also struggles on third downs, ranking 19th in the league (40.1%). Although Rivers ranks fourth in the league in passing, his offense is 24th in rushing. He also has never managed to top Roethlisberger or Brady when it matters most. For his career, he’s 2-3 against Pittsburgh (0-1 in the playoffs) and 1-5 against New England (0-2 in the playoffs).

Kansas City Chiefs (7-6)

The co-owners of the AFC West lead still have hope for the postseason after ending a four-game slide with a 26-15 win over the Raiders. With a resume that features a 5-0 start and wins over the Patriots and Eagles, the Chiefs give you pause. Their offense featured one of the league’s most potent rushing attacks, and Alex Smith was leading the MVP conversation before the team’s midseason tailspin. Can this team get back on track and ride that momentum into the playoffs?

Their chances don’t appear to be great. Yes, they matched up well with New England early in the year. But that was before the Patriots defense had rounded into form, and opponents have recently found an answer for rookie standout Kareem Hunt and the rest of the Chiefs offense.

Baltimore Ravens (7-6)

They got off to a rocky start to the season while Joe Flacco worked to overcome a back injury. But the Ravens have won three of their last four games to enter the postseason discussion. They gave the Steelers quite a scare last week but couldn’t hang on in the 39-38 loss. With a defense that ranks second in the league with 29 takeaways and Flacco’s experience in big games, Baltimore is one of those teams you’d rather not face in the playoffs.

With games left against the Browns, Colts and Bengals, the Ravens seemingly have a good shot at overtaking either the Bills or Titans for one of the wild-card spots. But even if Baltimore does run into Pittsburgh again, the Steelers seem to hold an edge because of superior offensive weapons. A matchup with the Patriots, however, would be interesting. Flacco owns a 2-2 record versus Brady in the postseason.

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USA TODAY Sports NFL reporter Lorenzo Reyes has attended multiple contests in 2017 involving the New England Patriots and Pittsburgh Steelers, including January’s AFC Championship Game. He just covered both teams in Week 14 and has some observations heading into Sunday afternoon’s clash at Pittsburgh’s Heinz Field, a matchup likely to determine home-field advantage in the AFC playoffs:

PATRIOTS

1. Tom Brady may be affected by injury

Neither the Patriots nor Brady have said much — surprise — about a mysterious Achilles ailment that’s landed the star quarterback on the injury report over the past three weeks. Brady has missed practice time and, based on Monday night’s subpar performance, it’s worth wondering if his mechanics have been compromised — especially if he’s nursing his plant foot.

Against Miami on Monday, he missed several throws he would normally complete with ease. More specifically, Brady short-armed passes to the sideline or deep parts of the field. Both of his interceptions were underthrown. When asked afterward whether the problem was physical or mechanical, Brady said: “I think it’s a little of everything.”

2. Receivers need to step up

Tight end Rob Gronkowski’s one-game suspension, levied for a dirty hit at Buffalo in Week 13, further crippled the passing attack.

Gronk will be back against the Steelers, but the loss to the Dolphins emphasized how limited the Patriot receivers are when the dominant tight end isn’t drawing attention away from them. Brandin Cooks was targeted seven times Monday but caught just one ball. In fact, no wideout had a reception in the first half. The Patriots failed to convert all 11 of their third-down tries and gained a season-low 248 yards. New England appeared lost facing the relentless pass rush and disguised coverages the Dolphins utilized.

It’s easier said than done, but if the Steelers can limit Gronkowski and pressure Brady like the Dolphins did, New England may lack the firepower — even if newly acquired Kenny Britt is active Sunday — to compete with Pittsburgh’s high-scoring offense.

3. Thin depth in front seven is ominous

Injuries have decimated New England’s front seven. Defensive end Trey Flowers (ribs) and linebacker Kyle Van Noy (calf) — and their combined 11½ sacks — were sorely missed in Miami. Making matters worse, defensive tackle Alan Branch (knee) was forced out Monday night. New England simply couldn’t disrupt Jay Cutler before the Dolphins raced to a 17-point second-half lead.

“You’re not going to be able to do as much with (backups) as guys that have done a lot of things against different teams, different situations, different looks,” Patriots coach Bill Belichick said Tuesday in a rare moment of candor.

Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell leads the NFL with 1,684 yards from scrimmage and is the type of multi-purpose threat who can take advantage of mismatches posed by an injury-weakened unit.

STEELERS

1. Mixed coverages

During an interview with USA TODAY Sports in August, Steelers defensive coordinator Keith Butler was asked about his takeaways from last season’s 36-17 loss to New England in the AFC title game. “I learned that we’ve got to play something else besides zone,” he responded.

Brady dismantled the Pittsburgh defense, completing 76.2% of his throws for 384 yards and three scores, and a repeat performance would be no surprise if the Steelers rely on zone concepts again.

Butler speculated during training camp that Pittsburgh would “play a little bit more man-to-man” this year against the Patriots, which seems wise. Miami played a lot of single-high safety coverage with a linebacker playing zone in the middle of the field while cornerbacks were man-to-man on the outside.

The Steelers will get a boost if cornerback Joe Haden is ready to return from a broken fibula Sunday.

2. Pittsburgh really misses Ryan Shazier

There is probably no player more important to the defense than the uber-athletic inside linebacker. And the emotional loss of Shazier, who recently underwent spinal stabilization surgery after an awkward tackle at Cincinnati, can’t be understated.

Schematically, the Pro Bowler normally chases running backs from sideline to sideline and monitors the short-to-intermediate space in the middle of the field on passing downs. His absence Sunday night against the Ravens was palpable. Baltimore entered the game ranked 30th in yards per game (288.5) and 18th in yards per carry (4.0) but gained 413 yards and averaged 5.8 yards per rush while Shazier watched from his hospital room.

Sean Spence and Arthur Moats are trying to fill the void, but as coach Mike Tomlin said Tuesday: “It’s just not a realistic discussion to talk about one guy replacing (Shazier).”

The Steelers may be forced to bring a safety into the box for run support. Doing that, however, will likely be an open invite for Brady to go to the air.

3. Can Pittsburgh afford to play from behind?

The AFC North champion Steelers have won eight in a row yet have needed a game-winning field goal from Chris Boswell inside the final minute over the past three weeks.

But it’s not sustainable to continue surmounting substantial deficits at the wire — especially against veteran teams like the Patriots, who are 40-11 since 2001 following a loss.

Brady is 10-2 in his career against Pittsburgh and has won the last four by compiling 13 touchdowns and zero interceptions. Even playing on the road, Brady and Co. have a mental edge on the Steelers.

But Pittsburgh may be able to neutralize that by jumping out to an early lead.

PREDICTION

Expect the Patriots to be hot early, but look for the Steelers to strike back in the second half. Lessons learned from recent failures against New England — combined with the Patriots’ defensive injuries — give the Steelers a great chance, especially if Antonio Brown continues his MVP campaign with another huge performance. > Steelers 28-26

Follow Mike Jones on Twitter @ByMikeJones.

NFL Week 15 kickoff times, TV channel info, game breakdowns and Playoff scenarios

(PhatzRadio Sports / USA Today Sports)    —   With just two teams in, the NFL playoff picture remains largely unsettled heading into Week 15.

But four more teams can clinch a berth in the postseason this week, while the Pittsburgh Steelers and Philadelphia Eagles both have a chance to grab homefield advantage in their respective conferences.

Here’s a full look at the Week 15 clinching scenarios, courtesy of the NFL:

NFC

Philadelphia Eagles (already clinched NFC East)

Philadelphia clinches homefield advantage throughout NFC playoffs:

1) PHI win + MIN loss

Philadelphia clinches a first-round bye:

1) PHI win

2) PHI tie + LAR loss or tie + NO loss or tie + CAR loss or tie

Minnesota Vikings

Minnesota clinches NFC North Division:

1) MIN win or tie

2) DET loss or tie + GB loss or tie

Minnesota clinches a playoff berth:

1) SEA loss + ATL loss + NO loss

2) SEA loss + ATL loss + CAR loss

3) SEA loss + ATL loss + DET loss or tie

4) SEA loss + ATL tie + NO loss + DET loss or tie

5) SEA loss + ATL tie + NO loss + CAR loss

Los Angeles Rams

LA Rams clinch a playoff berth:

1) LAR win + DET loss or tie + GB loss or tie + NO loss + ATL loss

AFC

Pittsburgh Steelers (already clinched AFC North)

Pittsburgh clinches homefield advantage throughout AFC playoffs:

1) PIT win + JAX loss or tie

Pittsburgh clinches first-round bye:

1) PIT win

2) PIT tie + JAX loss

New England Patriots

New England clinches AFC East Division:

1) NE win or tie

2) BUF loss or tie

New England clinches a playoff berth:

1) BAL loss or tie

Jacksonville Jaguars

Jacksonville clinches a playoff berth:

1) JAX win

2) JAX tie +BUF loss or tie

3) JAX tie + BAL loss or tie

4) BUF loss + BAL loss

5) BAL loss + KC-LAC game does not end in a tie

___

NFC
1. x-Philadelphia Eagles (11-2): NFC East leader. Wrapping up the division and reclaiming the top seed Sunday looks like a Pyrrhic victory after QB Carson Wentz was declared out for the season with a torn ACL.

2. Minnesota Vikings (10-3): NFC North leader. Their winning streak was snapped at eight, preventing them from clinching the division and costing them the inside track to home-field advantage.

3. Los Angeles Rams (9-4): NFC West leader. Lose next Sunday in Seattle, and the Seahawks replace L.A. atop division.

4. New Orleans Saints (9-4): NFC South leader. They gave up ground to the Falcons and Panthers, but a season sweep of Carolina keeps them in first place … for now.

5. Carolina Panthers (9-4): Wild card No. 1. Huge win over Minnesota solidifies their position. However they may be facing Aaron Rodgers next Sunday as the Packers try to ride another late-season wave to January.

6. Atlanta Falcons (8-5): Wild card No. 2. Thursday’s win over the Saints, combined with last month’s victory in Seattle, vaults Atlanta back into the mix. The Falcons will win the NFC South if they win out — and remember, they were 7-5 after 12 games a year ago.

In the hunt: Seattle Seahawks (8-5), Dallas Cowboys (7-6), Detroit Lions (7-6), Green Bay Packers (7-6), Arizona Cardinals (6-7)

x-division winner

AFC
1. x-Pittsburgh Steelers (11-2): AFC North leader. They clearly missed injured LB Ryan Shazier on Sunday night but hung on to beat Baltimore and clinch the division. Now on to next week’s epic matchup with New England.

2. New England Patriots (10-3): AFC East leader. They suffered a semi-regular stumble in Miami but will still be in position to get home-field advantage by prevailing in Heinz Field on Sunday.

3. Jacksonville Jaguars (9-4): AFC South leader. They passed a major litmus test by beating Seattle and also overtook the fading Titans for the division lead. But Jags will need two-game lead on Tennessee entering Week 17 if they don’t want a winner-take-all scenario for AFC South title.

4. Kansas City Chiefs (7-6): AFC West leader. Their defeat of the Raiders on Sunday was probably their best overall performance since September, allowing the Chiefs to retain a share of the division lead (they currently hold the head-to-head advantage over Los Angeles). However the scalding Chargers head to Kansas City on Saturday, and the winner will assume sole possession of first place.

5. Tennessee Titans (8-5): Wild card No. 1. Talk about backing into the playoffs. LT Taylor Lewan, probably their best player, was hurt Sunday, and QB Marcus Mariota played poorly again as Titans relinquished AFC South lead.

6. Buffalo Bills (7-6): Wild card No. 2. The strength of victory of tiebreaker currently puts them in the field ahead of the Ravens, though Baltimore’s final three opponents have a combined record of 8-31. The Chargers’ poor conference record (4-5) hurts them.

In the hunt: Baltimore Ravens (7-6), Los Angeles Chargers (7-6), Oakland Raiders (6-7),  Miami Dolphins (6-7)

x-division winner

***

___

Bears (4-9) at Lions (7-6)

TV: Saturday, 4:30, NFL Network (Mike Tirico, Kurt Warner, Heather Cox)

The matchup: The Bears delivered their best performance of 2017, a 33-7 rout of the Cincinnati Bengals, and although it likely won’t save coach John Fox’s job, it provides encouraging signs that GM Ryan Pace’s plan can work. Rookies’ fingerprints were all over the win with QB Mitch Trubisky tallying two TDs and S Eddie Jackson notching his second two-turnover game. Chicago can play spoiler and has a chance for its best season since 2013. The Lions ended a two-game slide, topping the Tampa Bay Bucs to remain one game off the wild-card pace and keep their bleak division title hopes alive.

Chargers (7-6) at Chiefs (7-6)

TV: Saturday, 8:25, NFL Network (Greg Gumbel, Trent Green, Jamie Erdahl)

The matchup: When the Chargers were 0-4, they were -3 in turnover differential and the playoffs seemed like a dream. Suddenly, things turned around and they have won four in a row and seven of their last eight. In the nine games since being 0-4, the Chargers are +13 in turnovers. The Chiefs beat the Oakland Raiders handily last week 26-15 to end a four-game losing streak. The Chiefs scored on their first four possessions and the Raiders’ 15 points came in the fourth quarter after the Chiefs led 26-0.

Ravens (7-6) at Browns (0-13)

TV: Sunday, 1, CBS (Tom McCarthy, Steve Beuerlein, Melanie Collins)

The matchup: The Ravens scored on five consecutive possessions last week to take a lead on the Steelers, but a short-handed secondary couldn’t hold it. Baltimore has the right makeup and enough veteran leadership to recover, but the pass defense remains a major issue. The O-line has developed chemistry and played well after an injury-riddled start, while Alex Collins has emerged as the lead running back. The Browns’ winless record forced another change last week as top player personnel executive Sashi Brown was fired and replaced by John Dorsey. However, head coach Hue Jackson will stay for 2018 despite having one win in two seasons.

Cardinals (6-7) at Redskins (5-8)

TV: Sunday, 1, Fox (Kenny Albert, Ronde Barber, Kristina Pink)

The matchup: Since Week 7, when QB Carson Palmer went down with a broken arm, offense has been a struggle for Arizona. The good news is the defense has some star power, enough to win games by itself at times, as in last week’s 12-7 victory over Tennessee. QB Blaine Gabbert, who has come back to earth after a hot start as the starter, scares no one, but CB Patrick Peterson and OLB Chandler Jones scare a lot of offensive coordinators. Washington continues to crumble in what has become a hopeless season. After a second consecutive blowout loss, players and coaches questioned the team’s preparation and effort.

Eagles (11-2) at Giants (2-11)

TV: Sunday, 1, Fox (Thom Brennaman, Chris Spielman, Peter Schrager)

The matchup: The Eagles are coming off their biggest win of the season, a gutsy comeback at the L.A. Rams that solidified their spot atop the NFC. But Philadelphia’s status is filled with concern after QB Carson Wentz was ruled out for the season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament. That leaves the Eagles offense and their Super Bowl aspirations in the hands of backup Nick Foles. Giants QB Eli Manning was back under center and coach Ben McAdoo was replaced by interim coach Steve Spagnuolo. And nothing changed. The Giants offense floundered, the defense made key mistakes that led to big plays and New York lost to the Dallas Cowboys.

Dolphins (6-7) at Bills (7-6)

TV: Sunday, 1, CBS (Beth Mowins, Jay Feely)

The matchup: Coach Adam Gase will be using these final three games to take a closer look at some of his younger players in order to make decisions about their future. RB Kenyan Drake will be one of those under the microscope. The third-year pro had career highs for carries (23) and rushing yards (120) two weeks ago and followed up with 25 and 114 vs. the Patriots. Bills RB LeSean McCoy enhanced his reputation for dashing through the snow, gaining 156 yards on a career-high 32 carries in an overtime win against the Indianapolis Colts in a blizzard at New Era Field.

Packers (7-6) at Panthers (9-4)

TV: Sunday, 1, CBS (Joe Buck, Troy Aikman, Erin Andrews)

The matchup: A comeback against the Cleveland Browns extended the Packers’ playoff hopes for QB Aaron Rodgers to return for the first time since he broke his right collarbone Oct. 15. Rodgers has looked great since resuming practice two weeks ago and has been cleared by doctors. Without additional secondary reinforcements after losing CB Davon House (back) one week after rookie Kevin King was placed on season-ending injured reserve. Carolina ended Minnesota’s eight-game winning streak by having their best pass-rushing and rushing performances of the season. They’re clinging to the fifth postseason spot, but the Panthers are still in NFC South contention after tying the division-leading New Orleans Saints, who hold the head-to-head tiebreaker.

Texans (4-9) at Jaguars (9-4)

TV: Sunday, 1, Fox (Chris Myers, Daryl Johnston, Laura Okmin)

The matchup: Houston’s last threads of playoff hopes were officially slashed with last week’s 26-16 loss to San Francisco. An ugly season turned uglier when QB Tom Savage appeared to have a concussion and was allowed to re-enter the game for an extra series before he was escorted off the sideline. If backup QB T.J. Yates replaces Savage, who replaced rookie sensation Deshaun Watson following an ACL tear, he’ll be throwing at the league’s best secondary in Jacksonville. After leaning heavily on the defense in the first half, Jacksonville’s offense finally erupted for a 21-point third quarter to beat the Seahawks 30-24 last week.

Bengals (5-8) at Vikings (10-3)

TV: Sunday, 1, CBS (Ian Eagle, Dan Fouts, Evan Washburn)

The matchup: The Bengals are going nowhere, and they bottomed out last week when they got run out of their own stadium by the Chicago Bears. Their season had essentially ended six nights earlier when they blew a big lead and allowed the Pittsburgh Steelers to rally to win, and the hangover was brutal. But the offense has been brutal for much of the year, and though the defense has been solid it has been on the field too long. The future doesn’t look bright for coach Marvin Lewis, whose contract expires after the season. Their eight-game win streak was ended last week by Carolina, but the Vikings didn’t go quietly. They will be energized by returning home and remain in position to eventually score a first-round playoff bye.

Jets (5-8) at Saints (9-4)

TV: Sunday, 1, CBS (Kevin Harlan, Rich Gannon, Otis Livingston)

The matchup: Perhaps their non-competitive 23-0 loss at Denver was an aberration, but it might be a portent of things to come as the season winds down for coach Todd Bowles, whose team was held to 100 total yards on 48 snaps (2.1 yards per play). Getting embarrassed by the Broncos, who had lost eight in a row, is bad enough, but the Jets also lost starting QB Josh McCown to a potentially season-ending broken left hand. Backup QB Bryce Petty is expected to start this week. After winning eight in a row and gaining control of the NFC South, New Orleans has lost two of its last three games after falling on the road to Atlanta on a late field goal Thursday.

Rams (9-4) at Seahawks (8-5)

TV: Sunday, 4:05, Fox (Kevin Burkhardt, Charles Davis, Pam Oliver)

The matchup: A loss Sunday would be the Rams’ third in five weeks and would loosen their grip on the NFC West lead for the first time in about two months. The Rams aren’t expecting to give up 450 yards of offense as they did against the Philadelphia Eagles, but they’ll have to deal with the loss of S Kayvon Webster (ruptured Achilles tendon). Just as concerning was the way the Rams offense and QB Jared Goff sputtered during the final three quarters of the team’s first meeting with Seattle. If the Seahawks’ hobbled defense couldn’t handle Blake Bortles, what’s that mean with Goff coming to town?

Patriots (10-3) at Steelers (11-2)

TV: Sunday, 4:25, CBS (Jim Nantz, Tony Romo, Tracy Wolfson)

The matchup: Patriots QB Tom Brady has dominated Pittsburgh the last decade, averaging 324 passing yards per game while throwing 22 TD passes and zero interceptions to help the Patriots win six of Brady’s last seven starts in the series. But the Patriots must recoup after their eight-game winning streak was ended by the Miami Dolphins. TE Rob Gronkowski, suspended last week, returns for the Pats. When Pittsburgh struggled early this season, QB Ben Roethlisberger intimated the end of his career might be near. But retirement has been the furthest thing from his mind lately. At 35, Big Ben is as good as ever. In his stirring 39-38 comeback win against the Baltimore Ravens in Week 14, Roethlisberger completed 44 of 66 attempts for 506 yards and two TDs.

Titans (8-5) at 49ers (3-10)

TV: Sunday, 4:25, CBS (Andrew Catalon, James Lofton)

The matchup: On a collision course with Jacksonville, the Titans might have looked at this month’s back-to-back West Coast games as fair-weather primers. But the loss at Arizona and the 49ers’ two-game win streak have made this a tougher game than it once looked. The Titans need to get the running game going again, and QB Marcus Mariota has to take better care of the football. Tennessee has featured one of the NFL’s best run defenses for most of the season, and the Titans can’t afford to let up.

Cowboys (7-6) at Raiders (6-7)

TV: Sunday, 8:30, NBC (Al Michaels, Cris Collinsworth, Michele Tafoya)

The matchup: Dallas has one more game without suspended RB Ezekiel Elliott. The first three games without him were ugly losses as the Cowboys were outscored by a combined 92-22 by Atlanta, Philadelphia and the Los Angeles Chargers. But the Cowboys have won their last two thanks to some big plays. QB Dak Prescott passed for 332 yards against the Giants, and 185 came on three plays. Just when the Raiders were feeling good about themselves after successive home wins against Denver and the Giants, reality bit in a 26-15 road loss to Kansas City.

Falcons (8-5) at Buccaneers (4-9)

TV: Monday, 8:30, ESPN (Sean McDonough, Jon Gruden, Lisa Salters)

The matchup: The defending conference champion Falcons are in the thick of the NFC South race after upending the division-leading Saints at home in Week 14. Now they go for the season sweep of the Buccaneers in the second of four season-ending games for Atlanta inside the division. After their turnover-filled 24-21 loss at home to the Detroit Lions, franchise QB Jameis Winston denied there is growing friction between him and Dirk Koetter. The second-year coach’s job security appears to be growing more tenuous by the week. Mistakes continue to stunt Winston’s growth (52 turnovers in 42 career games).

___

Times p.m. Eastern.

Compiled by Brian Allee-Walsh, Zac Jackson, Jordan Godwin, Scott Pitoniak, Arthur Arkush, Andy Friedlander, Scott Johnson, Howard Balzer.

NFL Week 15: Not much to look forward to with Broncos-Colts

(PhatzRadio Sports / AP)    —-    The final Thursday night game of the season couldn’t be much more forgettable.

Denver and Indianapolis are hard enough to watch with a full week to prepare. On short notice: UGH!

The Broncos (4-9) have been one of the league’s major disappointments, and they broke an eight-game skid last Sunday by manhandling the undermanned Jets. Indianapolis (3-10) has dropped four straight and seven of eight.

Enough said.

Denver, ranked 25th in the AP Pro32, is a 1-point favorite at Lucas Oil Stadium. At least the Colts (No. 30 in AP Pro32) won’t have to freeze in a blizzard as they lose this one.

BRONCOS, 13-10

KNOCKOUT LEAGUE TIP

Of all the choices Pro Picks has ever made for this category, none has been worse than taking Cincinnati over Chicago last Sunday. Thanks for not showing up, Bengals.

Regardless, we march on with NEW ORLEANS.

No. 15 Green Bay (plus 2) at No. 7 Carolina

After barely escaping Cleveland, not buying Packers, not even with A-Rod.

BEST BET: PANTHERS, 26-20

No. 5 Los Angeles Rams (plus 2 1-2) at No. 10 Seattle

Seahawks are too darn undisciplined as well as injured.

UPSET SPECIAL: RAMS, 31-21

No. 3 New England (minus 2 1-2) at No. 1 Pittsburgh

Not quite Game of the Millennium anymore, but still a good one.

PATRIOTS, 33-27

No. 11 Los Angeles Chargers (plus 1 1-2) at No. 14 Kansas City, Saturday

Another huge matchup in the playoff race. Bolts are charging, but …

CHIEFS: 21-20

No. 16 Dallas (plus 1) at No. 20 Oakland

The other AFC West contender is getting desperate.

RAIDERS, 24-21

No. 2 Philadelphia (minus 7 1-2) at No. 31 New York Giants

Foles won’t fail the Eagles, at least not this week.

EAGLES, 20-10

No. 23 (tie) Cincinnati (plus 10) at No. 4 Minnesota

Will Bungles, uh, Bengals show up this time? Have our doubts.

VIKINGS, 27-16

No. 9 Atlanta (minus 3 1-2) at No. 29 Tampa Bay

This is simple: Falcons are better team by more than this spread.

FALCONS, 27-17

No. 26 (tie) Houston (plus 9 1-2) at No. 8 Jacksonville

A win and Jaguars are in playoffs. Say what?

JAGUARS, 26-10

No. 23 (tie) New York Jets (plus 16) at No. 6 New Orleans

How, exactly, are the Jets going to score? Maybe on defense, but …

SAINTS 30-6

No. 21 Arizona (plus 6) at No. 22 Washington

Two teams destroyed by injuries this season.

CARDINALS, 22-17

No. 12 Baltimore (minus 7) at No. 32 Cleveland

Seems a matter of time before Browns win one. Actually, no.

RAVENS, 17-13

No. 13 Tennessee (plus 2 1-2) at No. 26 (tie) San Francisco

Titans could short-circuit playoff chances by flopping here.

TITANS, 20-16

No. 28 Chicago (plus 5 1-2) at No. 17 Detroit, Saturday

“The Last Jedi” opens this week. Good time to go see it.

LIONS, 16-13

No. 19 Miami (OFF) at No. 18 Buffalo

Forget last week, Dolphins don’t like Western New York.

BILLS, 17-15

___

2017 RECORD:

Last week: Against spread (6-8-2). Straight up (8-8)

Season Totals: Against spread (96-96-8). Straight up: (128-78)

Best Bet: 8-6 against spread, 9-5 straight up.

Upset special: 8-6 against spread, 8-6 straight up

___

For more NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP_NFL

FANTASY PLAYS: Bortles, Woods among starts for playoff semis

Week 15 is another must win situation for season-long fantasy football players in the middle of their playoffs.

Continue starting the players who helped you early in the season, but carefully evaluate this week’s NFL matchups to submit your best possible lineup.

Here are several players to start and others to avoid this week.

START ‘EM

Quarterback

—Blake Bortles, Jacksonville vs. Houston

Bortles has averaged 22 fantasy points per game (FPPG) over the past three weeks and has thrown multiple TDs and no interceptions in his last two games. The Texans have given up the second most FPPG to QBs.

—Case Keenum, Minnesota vs. Cincinnati

Keenum has thrown multiple TDs in five of his last six games, and has averaged just over 20 FPPG during that span. The Bengals have given up 20 FPPG to QBs over the past three weeks.

—Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh vs. New England

Roethlisberger has averaged 363 passing yards in his last five games against the Patriots. He’s thrown 12 TDs and just three interceptions in his last four games, and has thrown multiple TDs in five straight games.

Running back

— Christian McCaffrey/Jonathan Stewart, Carolina vs Green Bay

The Packers have given up the most receptions and receiving yards to RBs over the past month, and McCaffrey is second among RBs with 67 catches. The Packers have given up 4.3 yards per carry (YPC) over the past four weeks, also making Jonathan Stewart someone to consider starting. He has 4.8 YPC in his last four games, and has scored at least one TD in three straight weeks.

— Kenyan Drake, Miami at Buffalo

The Bills have given up an average of 160 rushing yards and 4.9 YPC to RBs over their past six games. Since taking over as the Dolphins’ lead back, Drake has averaged 23.6 FPPG in point-per-reception (PPR) scoring formats.

— Mike Davis, Seattle vs. LA Rams

Davis should have a productive day against the Rams, who’ve given up 5.1 YPC to RBs over the past four weeks, and the second most FPPG to RBs this season.

Wide receiver

— Mohamed Sanu, Atlanta at Tampa Bay

Sanu has scored double digit FPPG in PPR scoring in nine of 12 games. The Buccaneers have yielded the most receptions and FPPG to receivers.

— Jordy Nelson, Packers at Carolina

Nelson gets a bump up with QB Aaron Rodgers expected to start. In the six games Rodgers started this season, Nelson averaged four catches for 48 yards and scored six TDs. In his next seven games, he averaged three receptions for 22 yards and failed to score a TD. His ability to find the end zone with Rodgers under center makes him especially intriguing in non-PPR leagues.

— Robert Woods, LA Rams at Seattle

Woods had been the Rams’ most reliable receiver before his Week 11 injury. He should lead the team in targets this week, and with 15 catches for 228 yards, he’s had good success in his two career games against the Seahawks.

Tight end

— Charles Clay, Buffalo vs. Miami

Someone is going to have to catch some passes for the Bills this week, and with the Dolphins giving up the second most receptions and third most TDs to TEs, Clay could be a sneaky play.

—Jack Doyle, Indianapolis vs. Denver

Doyle has quietly the second most receptions among TEs this season. The Broncos have given up the fifth most FPPG to TEs in PPR scoring.

SIT ‘EM

Quarterback

— Derek Carr, Oakland vs. Dallas

Carr has an average of 13.5 FPPG over the past six weeks and recorded a miniscule 5.15 yards per pass attempt in Week 14. Amari Cooper, his inconsistent deep ball threat, will likely be out this week.

— Alex Smith, KC vs. LA Chargers

The Chargers have given up the third fewest FPPG to QBs, and have recorded the third most interceptions this season. Smith threw for just 155 yards in his first meeting against the Chargers.

— Marcus Mariota, Tennessee at San Francisco

Although this appears to be a good matchup for Mariota against the 49ers, who’ve given up the second most FPPG to QBs, Mariota is dealing with a knee injury that could limit him. He has also scored single digit fantasy points in three straight weeks.

Running back

— Frank Gore, Indianapolis vs. Denver

Gore is coming off of a 36-carry Week 14 performance, and is faced with a short work week. The Broncos continue to be tough against the run, and have given up 3.3 YPC and an average of 89.5 rushing yards per game.

— DeMarco Murray, Tennessee at San Francisco

Over the past three weeks Murray and Derrick Henry have virtually split carries (34 to 32), and in Week 14 Henry had both of the team’s red zone carries. The 49ers have gone five straight games without yielding a TD to a RB and have allowed an average of 57 rushing yards per game to the position over the past three weeks.

Wide receiver

— Mike Evans, Tampa Bay at Atlanta

Evans has scored an average of 7.3 FPPG in PPR over his past seven games, and has not scored a TD during that span.

— Josh Gordon, Browns vs. Ravens

Gordon has been impressive in his first two games of the season, but the Ravens have surrendered the fewest TDs to WRs on the season (five), and have given up the fourth fewest FPPG to the position.

Tight end

— Austin Seferian-Jenkins, NY Jets at New Orleans

Seferian-Jenkins disappointed in a favorable matchup against the Broncos in Week 14. He’s had two catches or less in three straight games. The Saints have given up the fourth fewest FPPG to TEs.

— Greg Olsen, Carolina vs. Green Bay

Olsen is still dealing with the after effects of his foot injury, and it has severely limited him. He was targeted once in Week 14 and is a risky play.

___

This column was provided to The Associated Press by the Fantasy Sports Network, http://FNTSY.com

NFL playoff picture after Week 14 / Hot Seat Updates

(PhatzRadio Sports / AP)    —   Here’s how the NFL playoff picture looks after Week 14’s games.

NFC
1. x-Philadelphia Eagles (11-2): NFC East leader. Wrapping up the division and reclaiming the top seed Sunday looks like a Pyrrhic victory after QB Carson Wentz was declared out for the season with a torn ACL.

2. Minnesota Vikings (10-3): NFC North leader. Their winning streak was snapped at eight, preventing them from clinching the division and costing them the inside track to home-field advantage.

3. Los Angeles Rams (9-4): NFC West leader. Lose next Sunday in Seattle, and the Seahawks replace L.A. atop division.

4. New Orleans Saints (9-4): NFC South leader. They gave up ground to the Falcons and Panthers, but a season sweep of Carolina keeps them in first place … for now.

5. Carolina Panthers (9-4): Wild card No. 1. Huge win over Minnesota solidifies their position. However they may be facing Aaron Rodgers next Sunday as the Packers try to ride another late-season wave to January.

6. Atlanta Falcons (8-5): Wild card No. 2. Thursday’s win over the Saints, combined with last month’s victory in Seattle, vaults Atlanta back into the mix. The Falcons will win the NFC South if they win out — and remember, they were 7-5 after 12 games a year ago.

In the hunt: Seattle Seahawks (8-5), Dallas Cowboys (7-6), Detroit Lions (7-6), Green Bay Packers (7-6), Arizona Cardinals (6-7)

x-division winner

AFC
1. x-Pittsburgh Steelers (11-2): AFC North leader. They clearly missed injured LB Ryan Shazier on Sunday night but hung on to beat Baltimore and clinch the division. Now on to next week’s epic matchup with New England.

2. New England Patriots (10-3): AFC East leader. They suffered a semi-regular stumble in Miami but will still be in position to get home-field advantage by prevailing in Heinz Field on Sunday.

3. Jacksonville Jaguars (9-4): AFC South leader. They passed a major litmus test by beating Seattle and also overtook the fading Titans for the division lead. But Jags will need two-game lead on Tennessee entering Week 17 if they don’t want a winner-take-all scenario for AFC South title.

4. Kansas City Chiefs (7-6): AFC West leader. Their defeat of the Raiders on Sunday was probably their best overall performance since September, allowing the Chiefs to retain a share of the division lead (they currently hold the head-to-head advantage over Los Angeles). However the scalding Chargers head to Kansas City on Saturday, and the winner will assume sole possession of first place.

5. Tennessee Titans (8-5): Wild card No. 1. Talk about backing into the playoffs. LT Taylor Lewan, probably their best player, was hurt Sunday, and QB Marcus Mariota played poorly again as Titans relinquished AFC South lead.

6. Buffalo Bills (7-6): Wild card No. 2. The strength of victory of tiebreaker currently puts them in the field ahead of the Ravens, though Baltimore’s final three opponents have a combined record of 8-31. The Chargers’ poor conference record (4-5) hurts them.

In the hunt: Baltimore Ravens (7-6), Los Angeles Chargers (7-6), Oakland Raiders (6-7),  Miami Dolphins (6-7)

x-division winner

***

Let’s begin with that rarest of phrases: “Bravo, Browns.”

Hue Jackson may be careening toward just the second 0-16 season in NFL history, but he deserves the opportunity to coach Cleveland with the assistance and wisdom of a competent front office, and new GM John Dorsey has the bona fides to build one in the wake of the franchise’s analytics cataclysm.

That said, we’d expect Jackson — owner Jimmy Haslam announced he’ll be back next year — to have only a moderate amount of rope in 2018 given there is obvious talent on this roster and the typical tendency new general managers have for wanting to anoint their own coach.

Moving on, here’s the latest installment of our weekly hot seat rankings:

1. Marvin Lewis, Cincinnati Bengals: His undisciplined, inconsistent, underperforming team followed Week 13’s implosion against Pittsburgh by laying down at home for the lowly Bears. Lewis’ assessment: “I’m at a loss of words today.” Cincy’s briefly flickering playoff hopes are now permanently doused, and it’s all but inevitable that Lewis is finishing out his contract with no hope for another one. Maybe he can join Jackson’s staff next year. Last week: 3

2. John Fox, Chicago Bears: Well, his team was good enough to take Lewis’ Bengals to the woodshed. Still, with a 13-32 record in Chicago, Fox’s eventual dismissal seems a foregone conclusion, especially for a team that clearly needs some innovative thinking on offense. Last week: 2

3. Chuck Pagano, Indianapolis Colts: He astutely noted Monday, “The shelf life for these jobs is not long.” Now 3-10, every subsequent loss further taints a season that’s been the worst of Pagano’s six-year tenure (he’d never been worse than .500 before this year). Clearly, the circumstances have been extenuating, yet no vote of confidence has been forthcoming. Last week: 5

4. Vance Joseph, Denver Broncos: A shutout of the Jets on Sunday allowed him to avoid matching the worst losing streak (nine games) in franchise history. Still, Joseph is at risk of becoming only the second Denver coach to finish 5-11 or worse during the Super Bowl era. Last week: 4

5. Jay Gruden, Washington Redskins: If he sticks around for 2018, he’d be the first coach to reach a fifth season under owner Dan Snyder. But after being a scrappy bunch most of the year, the ‘Skins are suddenly in a steep descent with no guarantee QB Kirk Cousins will be back. With Gruden seemingly grasping at straws, it would be no surprise if the club opts for its latest fresh start. Last week: 7

6. Dirk Koetter, Tampa Bay Buccaneers: He’s only eaten two Ws in the past 10 weeks. And QB Jameis Winston seems to be plateauing … at best. Last week: 6

7. Mike Mularkey, Tennessee Titans: They’ll probably reach postseason, which should be sufficient reason to keep him. But Marcus Mariota’s regression is concerning and so is the uneven play that has led to a season of unmet expectations. Last week: Unranked

Week 13 rankings (Hue Jackson)
Week 12 rankings (Ben McAdoo)
Week 11 rankings (Hue Jackson)
Week 10 rankings (Ben McAdoo)
Week 9 rankings (Ben McAdoo)
Week 8 rankings (Hue Jackson)
Week 7 rankings (Chuck Pagano)
Week 6 rankings (Hue Jackson)
Week 5 rankings (Hue Jackson)
Week 4 rankings (Hue Jackson)
Week 3 rankings (Marvin Lewis)
Week 2 rankings (Marvin Lewis)
Week 1 rankings (Chuck Pagano)

***

Follow Nate Davis on Twitter @ByNateDavis

NFL Roundup: McCoy slides through snow to lift Bills past Colts 13-7

This gallery contains 1 photo.

(PhatzRadio Sports / AP)    —   LeSean McCoy scored on a 21-yard run with 1:33 left in overtime to secure the Buffalo Bills’ 13-7 victory over the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday in a wintry, white-out setting best suited for snow shoes and sled dogs.

McCoy finished with 156 yards rushing and topped the 1,000-yard mark for the sixth time in his career on a slick, snow-covered field.

The Bills’ sideline erupted after McCoy’s touchdown, with numerous players running on to the field to either make snow angels or engage in celebratory snowball fights.

Buffalo (7-6) stayed alive in the AFC playoff picture, while the Colts (3-10) were mathematically eliminated from playoff contention.

The game began in nearly white-out conditions with a major lake-effect storm blowing in off nearby Lake Erie. The snow fell so hard a half-hour before kickoff it was nearly impossible to see New Era Field’s west-end scoreboard from the east-end stands.

McCoy’s touchdown came on Buffalo’s second possession of overtime. Facing third-and-2, McCoy found a crease up the middle and had enough footing to cut to his left and scamper into the end zone untouched.

It was a topsy-turvy game played in a snow-globe setting , with a regular parade of work crews taking the field with snow blowers on their backs to clear the yard lines.

Early in the third quarter, fans were even treated to a rare metrological event of “thunder snow,” as lightning flashed over the stadium. The game was not stopped.

So much snow accumulated on the roof of the first-level suites that fans began building snowmen.

EAGLES 43, RAMS 35

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Carson Wentz threw for 291 yards and four touchdowns before leaving with a knee injury, and Jake Elliott kicked the go-ahead 33-yard field goal with 3:45 left as the Eagles clinched the NFC East title.

Two sources familiar with the injury tell The Associated Press that doctors believe Wentz has torn his left anterior cruciate ligament and will miss the rest of the season and playoffs.

Wentz needs an MRI to confirm the severity of the injury. Both people spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to release the information.

Wentz was hit hard as he scrambled into the end zone on a play that was called back because of holding. He stayed in the game and threw a 3-yard touchdown pass to Alshon Jeffery four plays later to give the Eagles the lead.

Foles replaced Wentz on the next drive for Philadelphia (11-2).

The NFC West-leading Rams (9-4) then went up 35-31 on Todd Gurley’s second short TD run.

Elliott kicked a 41-yard field goal to pull the Eagles to 35-34. His go-ahead field goal was set up when Chris Long, a second-round draft pick of the then-St. Louis Rams in 2008, had a strip-sack of Jared Goff, with Rodney McLeod recovering.

STEELERS 39, RAVENS 38

PITTSBURGH (AP) — The Pittsburgh Steelers won one for injured star Ryan Shazier — and wrapped up the AFC North in the process.

Chris Boswell made a 46-yard field goal with 42 seconds left and Pittsburgh’s defense overcame a sloppy night to stop one Baltimore’s last-gasp drive.

The Steelers (11-2) trailed by 11 points going into the fourth quarter but capped an emotionally trying week following Shazier’s spinal injury to rally for their eighth straight victory and third division title in four years.

Ben Roethlisberger threw for 506 yards and two touchdowns, becoming the first quarterback in NFL history to top 500 yards passing three times. Antonio Brown caught 11 passes for 213 yards, including two long gains in the fourth quarter that allowed the Steelers to recover after blowing an early 14-point lead. Le’Veon Bell had 125 yards of total offense and scored three touchdowns.

Baltimore’s Joe Flacco threw for 269 yards passing with two touchdowns and one interception but was strip-sacked by rookie linebacker T.J. Watt on the Ravens’ final snap.

Alex Collins ran for 120 yards and a touchdown for the Ravens (7-6).

JAGUARS 30, SEAHAWKS 24

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) — Blake Bortles threw two perfect passes for touchdowns and Jaydon Mickens set up another score with a 72-yard punt return.

The Jaguars (9-4) intercepted three passes by Russell Wilson, including two on deep balls, and won for the sixth time in their last seven games. This victory, coupled with Tennessee’s loss at Arizona, moved Jacksonville atop the AFC South.

It’s the first time since 2010 that the Jaguars have had the outright division lead this late in a season.

The loss didn’t sit well with the Seahawks (8-5), who had two players ejected in the final minute. Defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson was ejected for throwing a punch during a melee that included defensive tackle Michael Bennett and Jaguars running back Leonard Fournette.

More pushing and shoving occurred after the next play, and defensive end Quinton Jefferson was tossed. Jefferson tried to climb into the stands after getting hit with what looked like a plastic bottle. Seattle coach Pete Carroll also got flagged for coming onto the field. Carroll walked into Seattle’s huddle, possibly to calm his players down.

CARDINALS 12, TITANS 7

GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) — Phil Dawson kicked four second-half field goals and the Cardinals shut down Tennessee’s offense nearly all day.

Dawson connected from 47, 23, 32 and 35 yards and missed from 40 for the Cardinals (6-7), whose victory came two weeks after they beat then-AFC South leader Jacksonville on the same field.

The Cardinals intercepted Marcus Mariota twice in the second half after the Titans (8-5) nursed a 7-0 lead at halftime.

Mariota completed 16 of 31 passes for 159 yards. Tennessee managed 65 yards rushing against the Cardinals after gaining 198 on the ground in a win over Houston a week ago.

The Cardinals gained 64 yards in the first half and 197 in the second.

CHARGERS 30, REDSKINS 13

CARSON, Calif. (AP) — Philip Rivers passed for 319 yards and two touchdowns, and the Chargers continued their ferocious playoff push with their fourth straight victory.

Tyrell Williams caught a 75-yard touchdown pass and Hunter Henry had another scoring grab for the Chargers (7-6), who have won seven of nine after an 0-4 start to their relocation season.

While outscoring their opponents 131-53 during their winning streak, the Chargers also moved above .500 for the first time since September 2015 with a dominant offensive performance against Washington.

The Chargers stayed atop the AFC West alongside the Chiefs (7-6), their opponents Saturday in Kansas City.

Kirk Cousins hit Vernon Davis with an early TD pass for the Redskins (5-8), who have lost two straight and six of eight.

PACKERS 27, BROWNS 21

CLEVELAND (AP) — Brett Hundley threw a 25-yard touchdown pass to Davante Adams in overtime as the Packers rallied from a two-touchdown deficit in the fourth quarter.

Cleveland fell to 0-13 and made too many crucial mistakes to break into the win column.

On third-and-6, Hundley threw a short pass to Adams, who broke a tackle and went in untouched with 5:05 left as the Packers (7-6) won in overtime for the second straight week — and third time this season. The Packers have stayed alive in the playoff race without Rodgers, who has been out since Oct. 15 with a broken collarbone, but is expected to play next Sunday.

It was another devastating loss for the Browns (0-13). Green Bay’s TD came after safety Josh Jones intercepted Browns rookie DeShone Kizer, who inexplicably threw the ball up for grabs while being pressured by Clay Matthews.

Down 21-14 heading into the fourth period, the Packers, who beat Tampa Bay last week in overtime, rallied on Hundley’s 1-yard TD pass to Adams with 17 seconds left in regulation. A 65-yard punt return by Trevor Davis set up Green Bay’s score, which came after Hundley was ruled down inside the 1 after an apparent 6-yard scoring run. Out of timeouts, coach Mike McCarthy elected not to risk a run and Hundley rifled his pass into the corner for Adams, who beat Jason McCourty on the play.

CHIEFS 26, RAIDERS 15

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Kareem Hunt ran for 116 yards and a touchdown and the Chiefs shut down Derek Carr and his offense to snap a four-game losing streak.

The suddenly stingy Chiefs (7-6) also made a big statement in the crowded AFC West race. They are tied atop the division with the Chargers; the Raiders are 6-7.

The Chargers visit Kansas City on Saturday night.

Alex Smith threw for 268 yards and Charcandrick West had a touchdown run for the Chiefs, who held the Raiders without points until Marshawn Lynch’s 22-yard run with 8:51 to go.

By that point, the Chiefs were cruising toward their 14th win in 15 divisional games.

Carr was 24 of 41 for 211 yards with a touchdown and two picks, a far cry from his performance when the teams met in October. Carr threw for 417 yards and three touchdowns that day, including the winning toss to Michael Crabtree on the final play of the game.

That loss was part of a midseason swoon for Kansas City, which started 5-0 but lost six of seven to fall into a tie for the division lead — and put its once-solid playoff prospects in peril.

PANTHERS 31, VIKINGS 24

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Jonathan Stewart ran for 103 yards and three touchdowns, and the Panthers snapped the Vikings’ eight-game winning streak.

Cam Newton threw for a touchdown and ran for 75 yards as the Panthers (9-4) racked up 216 yards on the ground against the league’s No. 2 ranked defense to pull even with the Saints atop the NFC South standings.

Carolina sacked Case Keenum six times and forced three turnovers to keep the Vikings (10-3) from clinching the NFC North division title.

After the Panthers squandered an 11-point fourth-quarter lead, Newton broke free of the pocket and raced 62 yards for a key first down with 2:00 remaining. Stewart scored his career-high third TD when he jumped over the line of scrimmage, reaching the ball across the goal line for the winning points.

Minnesota couldn’t manage a first down on its final drive and turned over the ball on downs.

COWBOYS 30, GIANTS 10

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) — Dak Prescott threw three touchdown passes and the desperate Cowboys spoiled Steve Spagnuolo’s debut as interim coach, as well as the return of quarterback Eli Manning to the Giants’ starting lineup.

Prescott threw a go-ahead 20-yard score to tight end Jason Witten with 7:38 to play. Rod Smith scored on an 81-yard pass play with 4:08 left and added a 15-yard scoring run a little more than a minute later after an interception by Sean Lee.

Prescott, who was 20 of 30 for 332 yards, also threw a 50-yard scoring pass to Dez Bryant as the Cowboys (7-6) stayed in the playoff hunt with three games left in the regular season. Dan Bailey added a 21-yard field goal as the Cowboys finished with 454 yards.

New York fell to 2-11.

Manning, who got a standing ovation taking the field, threw a 1-yard TD pass to Rhett Ellison late in the second quarter that gave New York a brief 10-3 lead. Manning finished 31 of 46 for 228 yards with a touchdown and two late interceptions.

The game capped a hectic week for the Giants that started Monday with the firing of second-year coach Ben McAdoo and general manager Jerry Reese and saw Spagnuolo promoted from defensive coordinator to interim coach. He coached the St. Louis Rams from 2009-11.

BRONCOS 23, JETS 0

DENVER (AP) — The Broncos snapped their longest losing streak since joining the NFL in 1970 thanks to wide receiver Demaryius Thomas’ big game and a return of Denver’s stingy defense.

Trevor Siemian threw for 200 yards and his favorite target was Thomas , who caught eight passes for 93 yards and a touchdown as the Broncos (4-9) avoided tying their franchise futility record of nine consecutive losses set way back in 1967.

This was their first win in 70 days — and their first shutout since Nov. 20, 2005, a 27-0 win over the Jets. It was fueled by a defense that held New York in check all afternoon.

The Jets (5-8) were limited to 100 yards of offense, 59 on the ground and 41 through the air. Jets quarterback Josh McCown was knocked from the game twice by hard hits, including a clean shot by pass rusher Shane Ray in the third quarter that left McCown with a broken left hand.

McCown finished 6 of 12 for 46 yards, and replacement Bryce Petty was 2 of 9 for 14 yards.

LIONS 24, BUCCANEERS 21

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — Matthew Stafford passed for 381 yards with an injured throwing hand and set up Matt Prater for a 46-yard field goal in the closing seconds.

Stafford made his 109th consecutive start despite being limited in practice after his right hand was stepped on during the previous week at Baltimore. He completed 36 of 44 attempts against the Bucs (4-9), and the Lions (7-6) overcame two interceptions and a fumble to stop a two-game losing streak.

Jameis Winston rallied Tampa Bay, which has lost eight of 10 following a 2-1 start, with a pair of fourth-quarter TD passes. But once again, the Bucs’ defense couldn’t hold off an opponent down the stretch.

Stafford moved the Lions 49 yards in eight plays to set up Prater’s winning kick with 20 seconds left — the winning drive of the quarterback’s career, and fourth this season.

49ERS 26, TEXANS 16

HOUSTON (AP) — Jimmy Garoppolo threw for a career-high 334 yards and a touchdown to help the 49ers to their second straight win.

Garoppolo again showed that he could be the answer for the 49ers (3-10) at quarterback, going 20 of 33 in his second start for the team. Acquired before the trade deadline from New England, Garoppolo threw for 293 yards in his debut last week to help the 49ers to a 15-14 win at Chicago.

The game was tied when he found Garrett Celek on a 6-yard touchdown pass with about two minutes left in the third quarter to make it 23-16. Celek had a big play earlier in that drive on a 61-yard reception on third down.

DeAndre Hopkins had 149 yards receiving and two touchdowns, but lost a fumble in the fourth quarter with the Texans down by 7 . San Francisco added a 41-yard field goal after that to secure the victory.

T.J. Yates threw for 175 yards and two touchdowns after Tom Savage left with a concussion in the second quarter. Texans (4-9) lost their third straight and sixth in seven games.

BEARS 33, BENGALS 7

CINCINNATI (AP) — Rookie Mitchell Trubisky threw for a touchdown and ran for another in his best showing yet, and the Bears ended a five-game losing streak with their most lopsided victory in five years.

Jordan Howard ran for 147 yards and a pair of touchdowns as the Bears (4-9) dominated a matchup of the NFL’s worst offenses. Their rookie quarterback took full advantage of an injury-depleted defense, completing a season-high 25 passes out of 32 attempts for 271 yards. He also ran 4 yards for a score.

The Bengals (5-8) were coming off a 23-20 loss to the Steelers on Monday night that crushed their playoff hopes and gutted their defense. The Bears piled up a season-high 482 yards against a unit missing starting cornerbacks Adam “Pacman” Jones and Dre Kirkpatrick, as well as linebackers Vontaze Burfict and Nick Vigil.

It was Cincinnati’s worst home drubbing since a 34-3 loss to Baltimore in 2008. Many of the 52,002 fans headed for the exits early in the fourth quarter.

NFL Week 14 kickoff times, TV channel info, game breakdowns

(PhatzRadio Sports / USA Today Sports)   —    Here’s how the NFL playoff picture looks as Week 14 kicks off.

NFC
1. Minnesota Vikings (10-2):
NFC North leader. A superior strength of victory tiebreaker moves them into the top spot over Philly. Extend their win streak to nine this weekend, and the Vikes will officially be crowned division champions.

2. Philadelphia Eagles (10-2): NFC East leader. Their loss Sunday night in Seattle was a reminder they’ve largely preyed on inferior competition, but they remain one win (or Dallas loss) from putting a bow on the division.

3. Los Angeles Rams (9-3): NFC West leader. Their first winning season since 2003 could also produce their first division title in that span. They can clinch a playoff berth by beating the Eagles and getting some help.

4. New Orleans Saints (9-4): NFC South leader. Thursday night’s loss to the Falcons means they can’t wrap up a berth this weekend and could still lose control of the division.

5. Seattle Seahawks (8-4): Wild card No. 2. Vanquishing the Eagles cements their playoff position and serves a reminder they’re still legitimate contenders. A better record in NFC games gives Seattle a higher seed than Carolina.

6. Carolina Panthers (8-4): Wild card No. 2. Costly loss in New Orleans. The good news is their next three are in Charlotte. The bad news is they’ll be hosting the Vikings, then the Packers, who may have Aaron Rodgers back.

In the hunt: Atlanta Falcons (8-5), Detroit Lions (6-6), Dallas Cowboys (6-6), Green Bay Packers (6-6), Arizona Cardinals (5-7), Washington Redskins (5-7)

AFC
1. Pittsburgh Steelers (10-2):
AFC North leader. They reclaimed the top seed — barely — based on the strength of victory tiebreaker after Monday’s narrow win at Cincinnati. The Steelers are now one week closer to the Week 15 showdown with New England that will really matter. Pittsburgh locks up the division with a win Sunday night.

2. New England Patriots (10-2): AFC East leader. After extending their winning streak to eight, they now own 15 consecutive seasons with double-digit victories. One more win will mean a ninth division title in a row.

3. Tennessee Titans (8-4): AFC South leader. They continue to appear less imposing than Jacksonville, which shares first place in the division. But the Titans’ Week 2 win over the Jags confers the tiebreaker … for now.

4. Kansas City Chiefs (6-6): AFC West leader. A 2-1 record in division games is the only thing keeping them nominally ahead of the Chargers and Raiders at the moment despite a three-way tie.

5. Jacksonville Jaguars (8-4): Wild card No. 1. To remain on course for a Week 17 battle for the AFC South in Nashville, the Jags must pass stern test against Seattle next week. However Jacksonville can secure a playoff berth with a win and help in Week 14.

6. Baltimore Ravens (7-5): Wild card No. 2. Next Sunday night, they’re in Pittsburgh. A loss to the arch rival Steelers would be a serious setback, especially with the Raiders and Chargers back from the dead. But Baltimore’s final three opponents have a combined record of 8-27.

In the hunt: Buffalo Bills (6-6), Los Angeles Chargers (6-6), Oakland Raiders (6-6), Cincinnati Bengals (5-7), Miami Dolphins (5-7), New York Jets (5-7)

***

Colts (3-9) at Bills (6-6)

TV: Sunday, 1, CBS (Spero Dedes, Adam Archuleta, Steve Tasker)

The matchup: A head coaching career that began with three consecutive 11-5 seasons and an appearance in the 2014 AFC Championship Game could be winding down as Chuck Pagano’s Colts lost for the ninth time, ensuring him of a losing record for the first time in his six seasons in Indianapolis. The Bills’ playoff hopes were dealt a serious blow last week in a 23-3 loss to AFC East rival New England. Pats QB Tom Brady improved to 27-3 vs. Buffalo. The Bills should be able to get to QB Jacoby Brissett, who has been sacked 12 times the last two weeks.

Cowboys (6-6) at Giants (2-10)

TV: Sunday, 1, Fox (Kevin Burkhardt, Charles Davis, Pam Oliver)

The matchup: After struggling badly without suspended defending NFL rushing champion Ezekiel Elliott, the Cowboys rediscovered their formula in beating the Redskins to keep alive slim playoff hopes. The Cowboys are built to run the ball, control the clock, keep their defense off the field and hit the occasional big pass. The Giants’ 2-10 season led to a housecleaning as coach Ben McAdoo and GM Jerry Reese were fired Monday. Defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo will be interim coach. The Giants had earlier ended QB Eli Manning’s streak of 210 consecutive regular-season starts in a loss at Oakland. With Geno Smith under center, the Giants’ offense scored fewer than 24 points for the 18th consecutive game.

Lions (6-6) at Buccaneers (4-8)

TV: Sunday, 1, Fox (Kenny Albert, Ronde Barber, Kristina Pink)

The matchup: Detroit is technically alive in the playoff chase, but a 44-20 thrashing at Baltimore, where QB Matthew Stafford injured his hand — it was stepped on by Terrell Suggs — and the defense wilted, further diminished the outlook. The Lions lost ground to 6-6 Green Bay and look up at two NFC South teams, Atlanta and Carolina, that hold head-to-head tiebreakers. X-rays on Stafford’s hand were negative, but he said the hand is “sore.” The end of the 2017 season will mark a decade of missing the playoffs for Tampa Bay, which moved closer to that reality after a 26-20 overtime loss to the Packers. The Bucs have the NFL’s worst pass rush, and it’s time for coordinator Mike Smith to loosen the reins.

Raiders (6-6) at Chiefs (6-6)

TV: Sunday, 1, CBS (Kevin Harlan, Rich Gannon)

The matchup: Looking as if the season weren’t going anywhere after a 34-14 loss at Buffalo on Oct. 29 dropped their record to 3-5, the Raiders have won three of their last four. But the wins have been over teams with 10 total wins (Dolphins, Broncos, Giants). They beat the Giants without WRs Michael Crabtree (suspension) and Amari Cooper (concussion). After this game, Oakland’s three remaining games are against teams currently with 22 total wins. For the Chiefs, six plays accounted for 295 of their 474 total yards, including TDs of 36, 40 and 79 yards to go with a 70-yard run by QB Alex Smith. However, they had just 46 plays and 17:11 time of possession and were 0-for-2 in the red zone during a 38-31 loss to the Jets. Kansas City’s three remaining opponents have combined for 14 victories.

49ers (2-10) vs. Texans (4-8)

TV: Sunday, 1, Fox (Dick Stockton, Mark Schereth, Shannon Spake)

The matchup: The 49ers got a promising first start from Jimmy Garoppolo in beating the Bears, but their chances of stealing the 2018 top NFL draft pick from Cleveland tumbled dramatically. Still, the 49ers have this game and two tough AFC South matchups (Titans and Jaguars) on deck before closing out the season at the first-place Rams. After a 24-13 loss at Tennessee, the Texans are inching closer to being officially eliminated from the playoffs. We know there won’t be a fourth consecutive season with a 9-7 record for head coach Bill O’Brien.

Packers (6-6) at Browns (0-12)

TV: Sunday, 1, Fox (Thom Brennaman, Chris Spielman, Jennifer Hale)

The matchup: The Packers have adjusted to being without injured QB Aaron Rodgers, and in recent weeks the defense has come on strong to keep Green Bay in the playoff mix. Rookie RB Jamaal Williams had the best game of his young career last week, and a healthier defense has created turnovers. After three years and 44 games away, Browns WR Josh Gordon returned from multiple suspensions and made an immediate impact for an offense starved for playmakers and consistency. But the league’s youngest team is outmanned every Sunday.

Bears (3-9) at Bengals (5-7)

TV: Sunday, 1, Fox (Sam Rosen, Brady Quinn, Jenny Taft)

The matchup: A loss to the 49ers extended Chicago’s skid to five games, its longest since the one that ended previous coach Marc Trestman’s last season. The defeat made John Fox’s job security as tenuous as ever. The lack of risk-taking and creativity by the Bears offense has contributed to 287 combined yards in the last two weeks. Cincinnati couldn’t hold leads of 17-3 and 20-10 to Pittsburgh, which cost it a chance to get back to .500. The Bengals lost leading rusher Joe Mixon to a concussion and LB Vontaze Burfict to a head injury.

Vikings (10-2) at Panthers (8-4)

TV: Sunday, 1, CBS (Jim Nantz, Tony Romo, Tracy Wolfson)

The matchup: Tied with New England for the league’s longest current winning streak (eight games), the Vikings go for a sweep of the NFC South. The streak has been punctuated by a stifling defense and an opportunistic offense led by QB Case Keenum, who has played brilliantly since replacing injured Sam Bradford in Week 2. After losing at New Orleans and getting swept by the Saints in their season series for the first time since 2011, it appears Carolina is playing for an NFC wild-card berth.

Redskins (5-7) at Chargers (6-6)

TV: Sunday, 4:05, CBS (Ian Eagle, Dan Fouts, Evan Washburn)

The matchup: Washington had a chance to keep its season alive but fell flat in an ugly loss at Dallas that all but eliminated the Redskins from playoff contention. Last week’s less-than-beautiful victory against the winless Browns pulled the Chargers from a 0-4 start back to .500 and, improbably, a tie with the staggering Kansas City Chiefs and the Oakland Raiders for the AFC West lead. They’ve won three in a row and six of their last eight by riding a defense that makes tons of big plays, a red-hot WR Keenan Allen and the arm of unflappable veteran QB Philip Rivers.

Jets (5-7) at Broncos (3-9)

TV: Sunday, 4:05, CBS (Greg Gumbel, Trent Green, Jamie Erdahl)

The matchup: The Jets had lost five of six before last week’s 38-31 win over the Chiefs, and their propensity to allow big plays kept Kansas City in the game. The Broncos’ 35-9 loss to Miami was their eighth in a row and clinched a losing record for the first time since 2010.

Titans (8-4) at Cardinals (5-7)

TV: Sunday, 4:05, CBS (Andrew Catalon, James Lofton, Jay Feely)

The matchup: Tennessee is starting to play like the playoff contender many expected them to be. Injuries to some key AFC South players and a relatively soft recent schedule have been factors. The Titans are winning close games with a solid run game and some timely defensive stops and have two winnable road games before finishing off the regular season with back-to-back home games against the Rams and Jaguars. Since officially closing the door on QB Carson Palmer and RB David Johnson returning in 2017, the Cardinals have been surprisingly competitive. But, predictably, it hasn’t resulted in a lot of wins.

Eagles (10-2) at Rams (9-3)

TV: Sunday, 4:25, Fox (Joe Buck, Troy Aikman, Erin Andrews)

The matchup: Philadelphia’s first shot at wrapping up the NFC East fell short in Seattle last week, and now the Eagles play another West Coast game with a bigger goal on the line. Having spent most of the first 12 weeks of the season as the NFC favorite, Philadelphia is a loss away from losing its grip on the conference’s top seed. The possibility of being without TE Zach Ertz while playing against an offensive juggernaut could make things even more difficult. The Rams have secured their first winning record in 14 seasons and big wins over Jacksonville and New Orleans helped solidify Los Angeles as a legitimate contender. However, the Rams have only a one-game lead over Seattle in the NFC West.

Seahawks (8-4) at Jaguars (8-4)

TV: Sunday, 4:25, Fox (Chris Myers, Daryl Johnston, Laura Okmin)

The matchup: After consecutive losses at home, people wondered if Seattle’s 12th Man home-field edge was no more. But a resounding 24-10 win over the Eagles put the Seahawks back in the NFC playoff conversation. QB Russell Wilson dazzled in the win, the defense forced key turnovers and the running game finally showed signs of life. A thumping of Indianapolis revived the Jaguars’ playoff push. Winner of five of its last six, Jacksonville is in a two-team race with Tennessee for the AFC South title, and the teams meet in Nashville in the season finale.

Ravens (7-5) at Steelers (10-2)

TV: Sunday, 8:30, NBC (Al Michaels, Cris Collinsworth, Michele Tafoya)

The matchup: The Ravens have rediscovered the running game and are back in playoff contention. The defense has been dominant in stretches and proved it’s tougher on opposing quarterbacks when playing with the lead. The Ravens suffered a big loss when veteran CB Jimmy Smith tore an Achilles tendon last week. RB Alex Collins has emerged as the lead back, and his ability to chew up tough yards has opened things up for QB Joe Flacco in the passing game. The Steelers have continued to pull away from everyone besides the Patriots. They host New England next week, but the one opponent that could keep them from looking ahead is the Ravens.

Patriots (10-2) at Dolphins (5-7)

TV: Monday, 8:30, ESPN (Sean McDonough, Jon Gruden, Lisa Salters)

The matchup: The Patriots rolled to their eighth consecutive win, beating Buffalo for the 27th time in QB Tom Brady’s 30 starts against them. New England has won 14 consecutive road games, including six this season. But the Patriots will be without TE Rob Gronkowski, who was suspended for one game for a late hit. The win vs. Denver ended the Dolphins’ five-game losing streak and kept alive their faint playoff hopes. Third-year RB Kenyan Drake had career highs for rushing yards (120) and carries (23).

Times p.m. Eastern.

Compiled by Brian Allee-Walsh, Zac Jackson, Jordan Godwin, Scott Pitoniak, Arthur Arkush, Andy Friedlander, Scott Johnson, Howard Balzer.

NFL Roundup: Brady, Patriots on top in the latest AP Pro32 poll

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NEW YORK (AP) — Tom Brady and the New England Patriots are back in a familiar spot at this point of the NFL season — playing their best football and preparing for another run at the Super Bowl.

The surging Patriots gained the top spot in the AP Pro32 poll on Tuesday, receiving nine of 12 first-place votes for 381 points in balloting by media members who regularly cover the NFL.

The Patriots (10-2) have won eight in a row and are closing in on yet another AFC East title.

“The Patriots have come a long way since losing two of their first four games,” said Charean Williams of Pro Football Talk. “They look a lot like the 2014 version.”

The Minnesota Vikings, who also are 10-2 and on an eight-game winning streak, received two first-place votes and moved up a spot to No. 2.

“It’s time to acknowledge that the Vikings are a serious Super Bowl threat behind a fierce defense and a third-string quarterback playing at a Pro Bowl level,” said Ira Kaufman of SB Nation Radio.

The Philadelphia Eagles (10-2), who saw their nine-game winning streak snapped in a loss in Seattle, received the other first-place vote and dropped two spots to No. 3.

“Showdown with Rams looms,” Fox Sports’ John Czarnecki said of Sunday’s game in Los Angeles between the first-place teams.

The Eagles are staying on the West Coast this week and are setting up camp in Orange County.

Despite a 10-2 record and a seven-game winning streak, the Pittsburgh Steelers slipped a spot to No. 4.

The Los Angeles Rams and New Orleans Saints, both 9-3 and leading their divisions, remained at Nos. 5 and 6.

The Seattle Seahawks, only a game behind the Rams in the NFC West, rose two places to No. 7 after beating the Eagles.

The Carolina Panthers slipped a spot to No. 8 after losing to the Saints. The Panthers face another challenge in Week 14 as they host the Vikings.

The Jacksonville Jaguars and Tennessee Titans, tied for first place in the AFC South at 8-4, each gained a spot and rounded out the top 10.

___

Here’s how the NFL playoff picture looks after Week 13’s action.

NFC
1. Minnesota Vikings (10-2):
NFC North leader. A superior strength of victory tiebreaker moves them into the top spot over Philly. Extend their win streak to nine next weekend, and the Vikes will officially be crowned division champions.

2. Philadelphia Eagles (10-2): NFC East leader. Their loss Sunday night in Seattle was a reminder they’ve largely preyed on inferior competition, but they remain one win (or Dallas loss) from putting a bow on the division.

3. Los Angeles Rams (9-3): NFC West leader. Their first winning season since 2003 could also produce their first division title in that span.

4. New Orleans Saints (9-3): NFC South leader. A season sweep of Carolina effectively gives them a two-game lead over both the Panthers and Falcons.

5. Seattle Seahawks (8-4): Wild card No. 2. Vanquishing the Eagles cements their playoff position and serves a reminder they’re still legitimate contenders. A better record in NFC games gives Seattle a higher seed than Carolina.

6. Carolina Panthers (8-4): Wild card No. 2. Costly loss in New Orleans. The good news is their next three are in Charlotte. The bad news is they’ll be hosting the Vikings, then the Packers, who may have Aaron Rodgers back.

In the hunt: Atlanta Falcons (7-5), Detroit Lions (6-6), Dallas Cowboys (6-6), Green Bay Packers (6-6), Arizona Cardinals (5-7), Washington Redskins (5-7)

AFC
1. Pittsburgh Steelers (10-2):
AFC North leader. They reclaimed the top seed — barely — based on the strength of victory tiebreaker after Monday’s narrow win at Cincinnati. The Steelers are now one week closer to the Week 15 showdown with New England that will really matter.

2. New England Patriots (10-2): AFC East leader. After extending their winning streak to eight, they now own 15 consecutive seasons with double-digit victories. One more win will mean a ninth division title in a row.

3. Tennessee Titans (8-4): AFC South leader. They continue to appear less imposing than Jacksonville, which shares first place in the division. But the Titans’ Week 2 win over the Jags confers the tiebreaker … for now.

4. Kansas City Chiefs (6-6): AFC West leader. A 2-1 record in division games is the only thing keeping them nominally ahead of the Chargers and Raiders at the moment despite a three-way tie.

5. Jacksonville Jaguars (8-4): Wild card No. 1. To remain on course for a Week 17 battle for the AFC South in Nashville, the Jags must pass stern test against Seattle next week.

6. Baltimore Ravens (7-5): Wild card No. 2. Next Sunday night, they’re in Pittsburgh. A loss to the arch rival Steelers would be a serious setback, especially with the Raiders and Chargers back from the dead. But Baltimore’s final three opponents have a combined record of 8-27.

In the hunt: Buffalo Bills (6-6), Los Angeles Chargers (6-6), Oakland Raiders (6-6), Cincinnati Bengals (5-7), Miami Dolphins (5-7), New York Jets (5-7)

***

___

NFL hot seat rankings: Who’s next to follow Ben McAdoo to unemployment line?

In memory of Ben McAdoo’s one-plus seasons at the controls for the New York Giants, let’s reflect back to what we wrote about him when he landed on our hot seat tracker after Week 1:

“He had a strong maiden voyage in 2016, leading New York back to the playoffs. But the weather can change quickly in New York, and McAdoo’s offense, which lacked injured WR Odell Beckham Jr. on Sunday night, was still shockingly inept against a middling Dallas Cowboys D. The Giants better improve quickly, or the tabloids will be calling for McAdoo’s newly coiffed head soon enough.”

Prescient. Disregard, “um,” such wisdom at your peril.

And, for what it’s worth, we commend Giants ownership for canning McAdoo, despite his run of 28 consecutive regular-season starts under the headset — the streak balloons to 29 if you count New York’s blowout playoff loss in January — to take an honest look at interim replacement Steve Spagnuolo (a Geno-esque 10-38 in three seasons as head coach of the Rams).

Here’s the latest installment of our weekly hot seat rankings:

1. Hue Jackson, Cleveland Browns: He’s now 1-27 (0-12 in 2017) since taking this job. But he’ll probably be 5-27 by the end of the month. Probably. The final four games are at home against Brett Hundley’s Packers and the hated Baltimore “Browns” before Jackson’s team finishes on road against lowly Bears and a Steelers squad that could sit its stars in Week 17. OK, truth be told, we’d bet on 0-16. Last week: 2

2. John Fox, Chicago Bears: His team now officially owns the league’s worst offense, and it’s imperative to get rookie QB Mitchell Trubisky the kind of mentor who can spark a turnaround like Jared Goff has enjoyed under Sean McVay. Regardless, it’s just not viable to bring back Fox, now 12-32 in Chicago (the .273 win percentage is the worst in franchise history), especially given how he’d more snugly fit a veteran team like the Giants, who have employed him before. Last week: 4

3. Marvin Lewis, Cincinnati Bengals: Did you watch Monday night’s come-from-ahead loss, which Cincinnati led 17-0 in the first half? Quintessential Lewis Bengals — 13 penalties for 173 yards, which showcased rampant undisciplined play, dirty hits and (most memorably) CB William Jackson taking a hands-off approach that allowed Steelers RB Le’Veon Bell to tightrope into the end zone for Pittsburgh’s first TD. It was a performance that may keep Cincinnati out of postseason and could finally cost Lewis his job for this perpetually underperforming outfit. Last week: 6

4. Vance Joseph, Denver Broncos: He’s leading the charge for the first Broncos team in 50 years to drop eight in a row. This franchise is quite embarrassed (GM John Elway’s word, not ours.) The latest setback was a 26-point loss to a Miami team that seemed every bit as bad as the Broncos … until it played the Broncos. Last week: 3

5. Chuck Pagano, Indianapolis Colts: He’s assured a losing record for the first time in his six-year tenure. But this boils down to whether rookie GM Chris Ballard wants to give Pagano an opportunity to coach a legitimate roster, or if he’s seen enough that it’s time to pursue another option, like former Kansas City colleague Matt Nagy, who called a strong game Sunday. At least Pagano is enjoying his press conferences now. Last week: 5 

6. Dirk Koetter, Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Since Jon Gruden’s ouster following the 2008 season, only one Bucs coach (Raheem Morris) has been retained for a third season. Just sayin’. Last week: Unranked

7. Jay Gruden, Washington Redskins: The last head coach to reach a fifth season under owner Dan Snyder … doesn’t exist. Just sayin’. (And a reboot actually might be in everyone’s best interest if it becomes apparent QB Kirk Cousins won’t be back.) Last week: Unranked

Week 12 rankings (Ben McAdoo)
Week 11 rankings (Hue Jackson)
Week 10 rankings (Ben McAdoo)
Week 9 rankings (Ben McAdoo)
Week 8 rankings (Hue Jackson)
Week 7 rankings (Chuck Pagano)
Week 6 rankings (Hue Jackson)
Week 5 rankings (Hue Jackson)
Week 4 rankings (Hue Jackson)
Week 3 rankings (Marvin Lewis)
Week 2 rankings (Marvin Lewis)
Week 1 rankings (Chuck Pagano)

***

Follow Nate Davis on Twitter @ByNateDavis

NFL playoff picture after Week 13 games / Sunday’s Best

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(PhatzRadio Sports / USA Today Sports / AP)   —-    Here’s how the NFL playoff picture looks after Week 13’s Sunday action.

NFC
1. Minnesota Vikings (10-2):
NFC North leader. A superior strength of victory tiebreaker moves them into the top spot over Philly. Extend their win streak to nine next weekend, and the Vikes will officially be crowned division champions.

2. Philadelphia Eagles (10-2): NFC East leader. Their loss Sunday night in Seattle was a reminder they’ve largely preyed on inferior competition, but they remain one win (or Dallas loss) from putting a bow on the division.

3. Los Angeles Rams (9-3): NFC West leader. Their first winning season since 2003 could also produce their first division title in that span.

4. New Orleans Saints (9-3): NFC South leader. A season sweep of Carolina effectively gives them a two-game lead over both the Panthers and Falcons.

5. Seattle Seahawks (8-4): Wild card No. 2. Vanquishing the Eagles cements their playoff position and serves a reminder they’re still legitimate contenders. A better record in NFC games gives Seattle a higher seed than Carolina.

6. Carolina Panthers (8-4): Wild card No. 2. Costly loss in New Orleans. The good news is their next three are in Charlotte. The bad news is they’ll be hosting the Vikings, then the Packers, who may have Aaron Rodgers back.

In the hunt: Atlanta Falcons (7-5), Detroit Lions (6-6), Dallas Cowboys (6-6), Green Bay Packers (6-6), Arizona Cardinals (5-7), Washington Redskins (5-7)

AFC
1. New England Patriots (10-2):
 AFC East leader. After extending their winning streak to eight, they now own 15 consecutive seasons with double-digit victories. One more win will mean a ninth division title in a row.

2. Pittsburgh Steelers (9-2): AFC North leader. Beat the Bengals on Monday, and they reclaim the top seed — barely — based on the strength of victory tiebreaker … and move closer to the Week 15 showdown with New England that will really matter.

3. Tennessee Titans (8-4): AFC South leader. They continue to appear less imposing than Jacksonville, which shares first place in the division. But the Titans’ Week 2 win over the Jags confers the tiebreaker … for now.

4. Kansas City Chiefs (6-6): AFC West leader. A 2-1 record in division games is the only thing keeping them nominally ahead of the Chargers and Raiders at the moment despite a three-way tie.

5. Jacksonville Jaguars (8-4): Wild card No. 1. To remain on course for a Week 17 battle for the AFC South in Nashville, the Jags must pass stern test against Seattle next week.

6. Baltimore Ravens (7-5): Wild card No. 2. Next Sunday night, they’re in Pittsburgh. A loss to the arch rival Steelers would be a serious setback, especially with the Raiders and Chargers back from the dead. But Baltimore’s final three opponents have a combined record of 8-27.

In the hunt: Buffalo Bills (6-6), Los Angeles Chargers (6-6), Oakland Raiders (6-6), Cincinnati Bengals (5-6)

***

SCOREBOARD

Monday, Dec. 4

Pittsburgh at Cincinnati, 8:30 p.m. EST. Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown and the AFC North-leading Steelers (9-2) bring a six-game winning streak to division rival Cincinnati (5-6), which has won two straight to get back into playoff contention. The Steelers won the previous meeting between the teams, 29-14 in Week 7. Despite the Steelers’ multitude of weapons on offense, they have been inconsistent at times and are just 13th in the league in points per game. The Bengals’ defense is allowing 19.5 points per game, 10th in the league. Cincinnati’s two straight wins came against reeling Denver and Cleveland, and the Bengals have not beaten a team that currently has a winning record. However, they have not lost at home since Week 2.

___

STARS

Passing

—Alex Smith, Chiefs, went 19 for 33 for 366 yards and four touchdowns in the Chiefs’ 38-31 loss to the Jets.

—Philip Rivers, Chargers, completed 31 of 43 passes for 344 yards and a touchdown as Los Angeles beat winless Cleveland, 19-10.

—Russell Wilson, Seahawks, was 20 of 31 for 227 and three touchdown in Seattle’s 24-10 home victory over Philadelphia.

—Josh McCown, Jets, went 26 of 36 for 331 yards and a touchdown as New York beat Kansas City.

—Blake Bortles, Jaguars, completed 26 of 35 passes for 309 yards, with TD passes to Marqise Lee and Keelan Cole, in the Jaguars’ 30-10 win over the Indianapolis Colts.

—Joe Flacco, Ravens, had his best game of the season, completing 23 of 36 passes for 269 yards and two touchdowns while guiding an offense that did not commit a turnover in Baltimore’s 44-20 victory over the Detroit Lions.

Rushing

—Kenyan Drake, Dolphins, ran for 120 yards on 23 carries — both career highs — and a touchdown in Miami’s 35-9 victory over the Denver Broncos.

—Jamaal Williams, Packers, had 21 carries for 113 yards and a touchdown in Green Bay’s 26-20 overtime victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

—Derrick Henry, Titans, rushed for 109 yards on just 11 carries and had a touchdown in the Titans’ 24-13 win over the Houston Texans.

—Marshawn Lynch, Raiders, had his first 100-yard game since coming out of retirement, gaining 101 yards on 17 carries — including a 51-yard touchdown run — in Oakland’s 24-17 win over the New York Giants.

—Alvin Kamara, Saints, ran for 60 yards and two tackle-shedding touchdowns and caught five passes for 66 yards in the Saints’ 31-21 win over the Carolina Panthers. Teammate Mark Ingram ran for 85 yards, doing most of his damage on a 72-yard run early in the second quarter. Two plays later, he scored from 3 yards.

—Todd Gurley, Rams, carried 19 times for 74 yards and caught six passes for 84 yards in Los Angeles’ 32-16 victory over the Arizona Cardinals.

Receiving

—Tyreek Hill, Chiefs, caught six passes for 185 yards and two touchdowns, including a 79-yarder, in Kansas City’s 38-31 loss to the New York Jets.

—Jermaine Kearse, Jets, had nine receptions for 157 yards in New York’s win over Kansas City, and teammate Robby Anderson caught eight passes for 107 yards.

—Rob Gronkowski, Patriots, had his best game of the season with nine catches for 147 yards in New England’s 23-3 win over the Buffalo Bills.

—Mike Wallace, Ravens, went over 100 yards for the second time this season, with five catches for 116 yards in the Ravens’ 44-20 win over the Detroit Lions.

—Keenan Allen, Chargers, had 10 catches for 105 yards and a touchdown in his third straight big game for surging Los Angeles, which beat the winless Cleveland Browns 19-10.

Special Teams

—Robbie Gould, 49ers, made all five field-goal attempts — none longer than 35 yards — including the winning, 24-yarder in the closing seconds as San Francisco beat his former team, the Chicago Bears, 15-14. Gould, cut by Chicago prior to the 2016 opener, pumped his right arm and screamed at the Bears on the sideline after his final kick.

—Greg Zuerlein, Rams, was 4 for 4 on field goals, including a 56-yarder, in Los Angeles’ 32-16 win over the Arizona Cardinals. Zuerlein did miss an extra point.

—Justin Tucker, Ravens, made all three of his field-goal attempts, including a key 51-yarder in the fourth quarter of Baltimore’s 44-20 victory over the Detroit Lions.

—Michael Brockers, Rams, blocked Phil Dawson’s try for a 45-yard field goal that would have cut Los Angeles’ lead to seven points early in the fourth quarter against the Arizona Cardinals. The Rams also blocked an extra point in their 32-16 victory, and Pharoh Cooper had a 30-yard punt return to set up a touchdown.

Defense

— Xavien Howard, Dolphins, returned an interception for a touchdown, the first interception by a Miami outside cornerback this season, and had another interception that set up a fourth-quarter TD in Miami’s 35-9 win over the Denver Broncos. The Dolphins also had two safeties, a first in franchise history.

—Eric Weddle, Ravens, had a strip-sack of Detroit’s Matthew Stafford that led to a touchdown, and later returned an interception for a touchdown against backup Jake Rudock. Baltimore forced three turnovers to extend its league-leading total to 29 in the 44-20 victory over the Lions.

—Clay Matthews, Packers, had 2 1-2 sacks, Kenny Clark added two sacks, and Green Bay sacked Tampa Bay’s Jameis Winston seven times overall in a 26-20 overtime victory over the Buccaneers.

—The Vikings held Matt Ryan without a touchdown pass for the first time in 30 games, and Julio Jones had just two catches for 24 yards. Minnesota also kept Atlanta out of the end zone on the way to a 14-9 victory.

—Alex Ogletree, Rams, intercepted the Cardinals’ Blaine Gabbert and returned it 41 yards for a touchdown in the fourth quarter of Los Angeles’ 32-16 victory. Ogletree did a head-first flip into the end zone and left the game shortly thereafter with an elbow injury, but he said he did not get hurt on the flip.

STREAKS & STATS

Chargers receiver Keenan Allen became the first player in league history to have 10 or more catches, 100 or more yards and one or more touchdowns in three consecutive games. … A 70-yard run by the Chiefs’ Alex Smith was the longest by a quarterback this season. Smith also became the first player since the 1970 merger to have a 70-yard run and a pass of 70 or more yards (79 to Tyreek Hill) in the same game. Carolina’s Cam Newton had a 69-yard run earlier this year. … Saints running backs Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara combined for 248 yards from scrimmage and three touchdowns, the fifth straight game in which they totaled at least 200 scrimmage yards.

REMEMBER WHEN?

The AFC West didn’t look like it would be all that competitive when the Chiefs started the season 5-0, and if any team appeared capable of a challenge, it wasn’t the Los Angeles Chargers, who began 0-4. But Kansas City has since dropped six of seven, including Sunday’s undisciplined 38-31 loss to the Jets, and LA has won six of eight after beating the Browns 19-10. Meanwhile, the Oakland Raiders improved to 6-6 with a win over the New York Giants, creating a three-way tie atop the division.

SAME OLD, SAME OLD

Tom Brady continued his career-long dominance of the Buffalo Bills, and he didn’t even need to throw a touchdown pass to do it. Brady went 21 of 30 for 258 yards and an interception in New England’s 23-3 victory. He improved to 27-3 against Buffalo and broke Brett Favre’s record for wins by a quarterback against any one opponent. New England never trailed, and Brady was content to hand off in the second half and let the Patriots’ rejuvenated rushing attack wear down the Bills. Nearly always comfortable at Orchard Park, New York, New England has been good everywhere on the road, winning 14 consecutive away games — the second-longest streak in NFL history. The Patriots also reached double digits in victories for the 15th consecutive season.

OFFENSIVE AWAKENING

The Ravens came into their game against the Lions with the NFL’s 31st-ranked offense, but were efficient on Sunday, with Joe Flacco directing three scoring drives in the second quarter and three more in the fourth quarter of a 44-20 victory.

Flacco threw for 269 yards and two touchdowns and was not intercepted. Mike Wallace caught five passes for 116 yards, going over 100 for the second time this season, and Alex Collins ran 15 times for 75 yards and two touchdowns. Baltimore gained 370 yards to Detroit’s 372, but much of the Lions’ offense came with Detroit in a big hole. Baltimore’s opportunistic defense did its part, too, forcing three turnovers, including Eric Weddle’s interception return for a touchdown late in the fourth quarter. Justin Tucker, ranked the league’s top kicker in positional rankings released Friday by The Associated Press, was 3 for 3 on field goals, including a 51-yarder that gave the Ravens a 10-point lead in the fourth quarter.

TWO FOR TWO

The Dolphins had two safeties in a game for the first time in franchise history in their 35-9 win over Denver, both of them on mistakes by the free-falling Broncos that could increase the heat on embattled first-year coach Vance Joseph. Miami took a 2-0 lead when the Broncos botched a third-down play at their 5. Matt Paradis’ high snap deflected off Siemian’s hands, and the ball squirted out of the back of the end zone. Joseph would not commit to Siemian remaining as the team’s starter next week. In the fourth quarter, Denver’s Isaiah McKenzie fumbled on a punt return and recovered in his end zone for another safety.

MILESTONES

New England’s Tom Brady got his 27th win over Buffalo, breaking Brett Favre’s record for wins by a quarterback against a single opponent. Favre beat Detroit 26 times. Brady also became the fourth player in league history to surpass 65,000 passing yards, joining Peyton Manning, Favre and Drew Brees. … New England won its 10th game for the 15th consecutive season, the second-longest streak in league history. San Francisco had at least 10 wins in 16 straight seasons from 1983-1998. … Saints quarterback Brees has 6,127 career completions, surpassing Manning for second place all-time. Favre leads with 6,300 career completions. … Saints rookie Alvin Kamara has 614 receiving yards and 606 rushing yards this season, joining Charley Taylor (1964) and Billy Sims (1980) as the only rookies to have at least 600 yards rushing and receiving. … Arizona’s Larry Fitzgerald had 10 catches and became the third player in league history with more than 1,200 career receptions, joining Jerry Rice and Tony Gonzalez. He reached the milestone in his 214th game, faster than either Rice or Gonzalez. Fitzgerald also passed Isaac Bruce for fourth place all-time in receiving yards with 15,267.

SIDELINED

Jimmy Smith, the top cornerback on the Ravens’ dominant defense, tore his Achilles tendon on a non-contact play in Baltimore’s 44-20 win over the Detroit Lions and will miss the rest of the season, coach John Harbaugh said. … Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford left with a bruised and bloodied right hand after it was stepped on, but X-rays were negative. … Bills quarterback Tyrod Taylor hurt his left knee on the opening series of Buffalo’s 23-3 loss to the New England Patriots. He played through the injury before leaving the game early in the fourth quarter, and was limping heavily in the locker room. He did not speak to reporters but nodded his head “Yes” when asked if he was OK. … Bills tight end Tre’Davious White was being evaluated for a concussion after he was struck by Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski while lying on the ground. Gronkowski apologized for the hit after the game. … The Houston Texans suffered several injuries, with tight end C.J. Fiederowicz being evaluated for a concussion. Receiver Braxton Miller and running back Alfred Blue also suffered concussions. Cornerback Johnathan Joseph was ruled out just after halftime with an injured shoulder. Receiver Bruce Ellington also couldn’t finish against Tennessee with an injured hamstring. … Vikings tight end David Morgan went out in the first quarter against Atlanta with a concussion. Falcons guard Andy Levitre sustained a triceps injury in the first quarter and didn’t return.

SPEAKING

“That’s just dirty football. There’s nowhere in our game for that. I don’t know if it was a shoulder, elbow. I’m not sure what it was. That was dirty.” — Bills safety Micah Hyde after Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski struck Tre’Davious White, who was lying on the ground after intercepting Tom Brady.

___

“I’m not in the business of that. It was a lot of frustration. I just want to apologize to Tre’Davious White. I don’t really believe in those type of shots.” — Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski after he struck White while the player was lying on the ground.

___

NFL capsules: Case Keenum throws for 2 TDs as Vikings win 8th straight

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(PhatzRadio Sports / AP)    —-   ATLANTA – Case Keenum threw a pair of touchdown passes, and the Minnesota Vikings extended their winning streak to eight straight games, keeping the Atlanta Falcons out of the end zone in a 14-9 victory on Sunday.

Keenum, who was 25 of 30 for 227 yards, hooked up with Jerick McKinnon on a 2-yard scoring play in the second quarter, and went to Kyle Rudolph for a 6-yard TD on the first play of the fourth quarter, capping an 89-yard drive that consumed more than eight minutes.

Minnesota (10-2) turned in a stellar defensive effort against a Falcons team that led the league in scoring a year ago and seemed to be finding its stride during a three-game winning streak, averaging nearly 32 points. While Minnesota remained far ahead in the NFC North, the Falcons’ fell further behind in the NFC South and could be damaged in the wild-card race.

The Falcons (7-5) were held without a touchdown for the first time since Dec. 13, 2015, when they were blanked 38-0 by Carolina. Matt Ryan’s streak of 30 straight games with a touchdown pass also ended, going down as the eighth longest in NFL history.

PATRIOTS 23, BILLS 3

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) – Rex Burkhead scored twice and the Patriots won their eighth straight in an AFC East showdown overshadowed by injuries and cheap shots.

Bills starting quarterback Tyrod Taylor had a towel draped over his head while being carted off the sideline with a left knee injury early in the fourth quarter.

Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski, meanwhile, was accused of making a dirty hit after pile-driving shoulder-first into the back of the head of Bills cornerback Tre’Davious White, who was laying on the field after making an interception with 4:50 remaining.

White was dazed as he got up and was immediately escorted to the locker room to be evaluated for a concussion. The hit sparked a shoving match between Hyde and Patriots receiver Danny Amendola. Bills defensive end Jerry Hughes was so upset he was flagged for making contact with an official.

Gronkowski was apologetic after the game.

Tom Brady went 21 of 30 for 258 yards and an interception, while improving to 27-3 over Buffalo and breaking Brett Favre’s NFL record for most wins by a quarterback against any one opponent. Favre had 26 wins over Detroit.

Brady needed to simply stand aside and let the Patriots’ rejuvenated rushing attack wear down the Bills in a game New England (10-2) never trailed. Dion Lewis had 92 yards rushing and Burkhead had 78.

New England won its 14th consecutive road game – the second-longest streak in NFL history – and reached double-digits in victories for the 15th consecutive season. New England also improved to 30-5 against Buffalo since Patriots coach Bill Belichick was hired in 2000.

The Bills are 6-6.

SAINTS 31, PANTHERS 21

NEW ORLEANS – Rookie sensation Alvin Kamara scored two tackle-shedding touchdowns, and New Orleans took advantage of a pair of Carolina special teams gaffes asthe Saints reclaimed sole possession of first place in the NFC South.

Mark Ingram rushed for 85 yards and a touchdown for the Saints (9-3), who own the head-to-head tiebreaker over Carolina (8-4) with four games to go.

Drew Brees passed for 269 yards, including a 10-yard TD to Michael Thomas a few plays after a botched Panthers punt gave New Orleans the ball on the Carolina 31. In the fourth quarter, a fumble by Panthers punt returner Kaelin Clay near midfield set up Wil Lutz’s 31-yard field goal to give New Orleans a 31-14 lead.

Cam Newton passed for 183 yards and touchdowns of 21 yards to Christian McCaffrey and 24 to Devin Funchess. Newton also ran for 51 yards. Jonathan Stewart added a short TD run for Carolina, which had its four-game winning streak ended.

The Panthers were unable to convert a crucial fourth-and-6 play deep in Saints territory in the fourth quarter. Newton connected with Funchess, who was stopped a yard short by cornerback Ken Crawley.

Kamara finished with 122 yards from scrimmage.

CHARGERS 19, BROWNS 10

CARSON, Calif. – Philip Rivers passed for 344 yards and hit Keenan Allen for a touchdown, and the surging Chargers moved into a tie for first place in the AFC West with a victory over the winless Browns.

Allen had 10 catches for 105 yards in his third straight big game for the Chargers (6-6), who have won six of eight to pull even with Oakland and slumping Kansas City atop the division with four games to go.

New kicker Travis Coons hit four field goals as the Chargers grinded out a win over the Browns (0-12), whose only victory in their previous 30 games was a 20-17 win over the then-San Diego Chargers on Christmas Eve last season.

Cleveland trailed 19-7 entering the fourth quarter, and Zane Gonzalez hit an early field goal before the Browns mounted a long drive. But Joey Bosa forced a fumble with a vicious sack of DeShone Kizer deep in Chargers territory, and Denzel Perryman recovered with 4:48 to play. The Browns had another drive, but Adrian Phillips’ interception ended it.

Josh Gordon had four catches for 84 yards in his first NFL game since 2014 for the Browns. The talented receiver had been suspended for over 2 1/2 seasons for numerous violations of the NFL’s substance abuse policies, but was reinstated last month.

RAIDERS 24, GIANTS 17

OAKLAND, Calif. – Oakland’s Marshawn Lynch had a 51-yard touchdown run and got his first 100-yard rushing game since coming out of retirement, in New York’s first game without Eli Manning starting in 13 years.

Oakland (6-6) overcame the absences of starting receivers Michael Crabtree (suspension) and Amari Cooper (injury) to win consecutive games for the first time since the opening two games of the season. The Raiders moved into a three-way tie for first place in the AFC West with Kansas City and the Chargers.

Geno Smith lost two fumbles before throwing a touchdown pass in the fourth quarter to Evan Engram for the Giants (2-10), while Manning spent the day on the sideline watching.

New York benched Manning earlier in the week, ending his streak of 210 straight regular-season starts, and he spent his first game as a spectator since Nov. 14, 2004, walking around the sideline with no helmet and listening to the play calls with an ear piece.

Smith finished 21 for 34 for 212 yards.

RAIDERS 32, RAMS 16

GLENDALE, Ariz. – Jared Goff passed for two touchdowns, Los Angeles took advantage of two early interceptions thrown by Blaine Gabbert, and the Rams solidified their grip on first place in the NFC West.

The Rams (9-3) won for the sixth time in seven games to clinch their first winning season since 2003 when they were in St. Louis. They took the season series with the Cardinals for only the second time in the last 14 years and first since 2012.

The Rams had routed the Cardinals in London 33-0 on Oct. 22 and were in the lead almost from the start of this one. Gabbert’s interceptions helped Los Angeles score 16 early points, including Alec Ogletree’s 41-yard interception return for a touchdown, and the Rams led the rest of the way.

The Cardinals (5-7) cut the lead to 16-13 in the second quarter and were down 19-13 at the break.

The Rams added an 11-yard touchdown pass from Goff to Sammy Watkins in the third quarter and got a blocked field goal from Michael Brockers in the fourth, when Arizona could have cut the lead to seven.

With Adrian Peterson sitting out with a neck injury, and despite playing with cracked ribs, Kerwynn Williams carried 16 times for 97 yards, three shy of his career best.

JETS 38, CHIEFS 31

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Josh McCown scored on a 1-yard quarterback sneak with 2:15 left, and the Jets bounced back from a brutal start for a wild and wacky win over the spiraling Chiefs.

Chandler Catanzaro kicked a 21-yard field goal to put the Jets (5-7) ahead with 3:55 left. But Kansas City’s Bennie Logan was called for a personal foul for hitting long snapper Thomas Hennessy on the play. That gave the Jets the ball at the 1 with a new set of downs.

After two running plays, McCown threw incomplete – but Steven Nelson was penalized for defensive holding, making it first-and-goal from the 2. Three plays later, McCown kept the ball and shoved his way into the end zone.

McCown’s pass on the 2-point conversion was incomplete, but Nelson was called for holding. An enraged Marcus Peters picked up the penalty flag and tossed it away, drawing an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. Elijah McGuire ran it in moments later to convert the 2-point play and make it 38-31.

McCown finished with 331 yards passing and a touchdown to Matt Forte, and ran for two scores – including the winner. Jermaine Kearse had nine catches for 157 yards and Robby Anderson caught eight passes for 107 yards as the Jets dominated in time of possession, but still had to hold their breath in the end.

After Tyreek Hill’s 40-yard catch put the ball at the Jets 23, Smith completed a 4-yard pass to Travis Kelce, who had two early touchdowns. But Smith was then incomplete on three straight passes.

The loss by the Chiefs (6-6) ruined the return of cornerback Darrelle Revis, who made his debut with Kansas City after signing a two-year deal last week. Revis, who played eight years over two stints with the Jets, started for the Chiefs, but spent the second half on the sideline.

Kansas City has dropped six of its last seven after opening the season 5-0.

PACKERS 26, BUCCANEERS 20, OT

GREEN BAY, Wis. – Aaron Jones’ 20-yard touchdown run on his only carry, with 5:59 left in overtime, won it.

With the passing game struggling, Green Bay (6-6) wore down the Buccaneers on the ground. Brett Hundley had runs of 18 and 7 yards on the drive to start overtime.

The Packers grinded out a win to stay in the playoff race, though they trail NFC North leader Minnesota by four games. They hope to get starting quarterback Aaron Rodgers back from a collarbone injury in a couple weeks.

Jameis Winston threw two touchdown passes to Cameron Brate in the quarterback’s shaky return from a shoulder injury. But the defense couldn’t hold up in overtime for the last-place Buccaneers (4-8).

Mason Crosby’s 22-yard field goal tied the game at 20 with 2:01 left, giving the team a lift after the Bucs tried to wear out the Packers on the run.

Peyton Barber had 102 yards for 23 carries. Winston finished 21 of 32 for 270 yards, including an 11-yard pass to Brate for a 20-17 lead with 6:02 left.

TITANS 24, TEXANS 13

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – LeShaun Sims intercepted a pass intended for DeAndre Hopkins in the end zone with 1:02 left, and the stayed atop the AFC South.

Marcus Mariota also ran for a touchdown and threw for another, but the Titans needed the interception to preserve the win with Tom Savage throwing for a career-high 365 yards despite the Texans losing four offensive players to injuries during the game.

The Titans (8-4) won their second straight and sixth of their past seven. They improved to 4-1 in the AFC South to stay ahead of Jacksonville, a winner over Indianapolis.

Tennessee didn’t look ready to take advantage of a chance for a little payback against Houston for the 57-14 beat-down the Texans put on them Oct. 1 when Deshaun Watson and J.J. Watt were healthy. The Titans even fell behind 10-0 before rallying to tie at halftime.

Injuries have taken a toll on the Texans (4-8). Savage even made up for three consecutive false starts by Jeff Allen, who slid over to left tackle, after having fourth-and-4. Savage found Stephen Anderson with a 22-yarder.

Sims beat Hopkins for the interception on the next play, and Derrick Henry ran 75 yards up the left sideline for a TD three plays later. Henry finished with 109 yards rushing.

RAVENS 44, LIONS 20

BALTIMORE – Joe Flacco threw for 269 yards and two touchdowns, and the Ravens survived a strong comeback bid by Matthew Stafford and the Lions.

After relying heavily on their opportunistic defense for much of the season, the Ravens (7-5) finally received an ample contribution from the league’s 31st-ranked offense. Flacco helped Baltimore take a 20-0 halftime lead and directed three scoring drives in the fourth quarter to keep the Ravens in front.

Flacco completed 23 of 36 passes while guiding an offense that did not commit a turnover.

Stafford completed a team-record 20 straight passes in the second half, twice getting the Lions within a touchdown. But Detroit (6-6) lost a second straight following a three-game winning streak.

Stafford left late in the fourth quarter with a right hand injury; his hand was stepped on. He went 24 for 29 for 292 yards.

The Ravens came in with three shutouts and an NFL-best 26 takeaways. They forced three more turnovers, all of them pivotal.

JAGUARS 30, COLTS 10

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Blake Bortles threw two touchdown passes, Leonard Fournette scored for the first time in six weeks and the Jaguars swept the series for the second time since they joined the AFC South in 2002.

The Jaguars (8-4) bounced back from a last-second loss at Arizona, reached eight wins for the first time since 2010, and remained in the thick of the playoff picture.

Bortles, Fournette and some more trickery had a lot to do with the latest victory. Bortles completed 26 of 35 passes for 309 yards, with TD passes to Marqise Lee and Keelan Cole.

Fournette found little room for the third time in the past four games. He finished with 57 yards on 20 carries and limped off the field with an ankle injury late in the third quarter, but re-entered the game. Fournette went untouched for a 5-yard score to open the second half.

Jacksonville’s top-ranked defense kept the Colts (3-9) at bay most of the game. The only blemish was a 40-yard touchdown pass from Jacoby Brissett to T.Y. Hilton on a fourth-and-2 play in the third quarter.

The Jaguars got the lopsided result started with a fake punt. It was Jacksonville’s third fake punt of the season – all successful and all leading to touchdowns.

DOLPHINS 35, BRONCOS 9

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. – Xavien Howard’s 30-yard interception return for a touchdown highlighted a dominating defensive effort by the Dolphins, and they snapped a five-game losing streak.

The Broncos (3-9) lost their eighth in a row.

Miami (5-7) scored two safeties in a game for the first time in franchise history and held Denver to 1 for 13 on third-down conversions. Trevor Siemian, the Broncos’ third starting quarterback in as many weeks, went 20 for 42 for 219 yards with three interceptions.

Kenyan Drake rushed for 120 yards for Miami on 23 carries, both career highs. He scored on a 42-yard touchdown run – only the Dolphins’ second rush for a TD this year.

Miami won for the first time since Week 7, while the Broncos went from bad to worse, extending their longest skid in 50 years.

49ERS 15, BEARS 14

CHICAGO – Robbie Gould kicked a 24-yard field goal in the closing seconds and Jimmy Garoppolo threw for 293 yards in his first San Francisco start.

Gould made five field goals in his first appearance at Soldier Field since Chicago cut him prior to the 2016 opener. The Bears’ all-time leader in points and field goals made, he shouted at their sideline after he nailed the winner.

Garoppolo was solid in his first start since the 49ers (2-10) acquired him from New England before the trade deadline in October. The suburban Chicago product completed 26 of 37 passes with an interception. And the 49ers picked up the win after losing their first five road games.

Chicago (3-9) dropped its fifth straight, and coach John Fox fell to 12-32 in three seasons with the Bears.

Tarik Cohen returned a punt 61 yards for a touchdown. That made him the first NFL rookie with rushing, receiving, passing and punt return TDs in a season since Gale Sayers in 1965.

SEAHAWKS 24, EAGLES 10

SEATTLE – Russell Wilson threw three touchdown passes, the last a 15-yard strike to J.D. McKissic with 7:29 left, and Seattle stayed in the NFC playoff hunt with a victory over Philadelphia.

Seattle snapped Philadelphia’s nine-game winning streak thanks largely to another masterful performance by its quarterback. Wilson was 20 of 31 for 227 and threw touchdowns of 11 yards to Jimmy Graham, 1-yard to Tyler Lockett and the TD to McKissic after the Eagles had trimmed the lead to seven.

The scenarios for the nine teams with a legitimate shot at the Playoff

(PhatzRadio Sports / USA Today Sports)   —   The road to the College Football Playoff is complete. Well, almost. At least we’ve reached the point of the regular season where a light has appeared at the end of the tunnel.

A weekend unlike nearly any that has come before is upon us: For just the second time in history, a Saturday will feature four matchups between teams ranked in the top 10 of The Associated Press poll.

For the final time this year, let’s break down the postseason path for the nine legitimate contenders for the four-team Playoff field. For some, it’s easy — just win. Others need wins and help, while one in particular will be watching the proceedings from the couch.

Clemson

Clemson has it pretty easy. The Tigers, ranked first in the penultimate Playoff rankings, are locked into the field with a win against Miami and likely as the top seed. But there are other avenues to the Playoff. Clemson could lose to the Hurricanes and still be in competition with Alabama for the fourth seed. With a Wisconsin loss, the Tigers would vie with the Tide and Ohio State for a Playoff berth. Even at 11-2, Clemson is a legitimate contender.

Auburn

Auburn’s only road is with a win against Georgia in the SEC championship. After handling the Bulldogs at home earlier in November, the Tigers are expected to do so again in Atlanta. But there’s no backup plan: Auburn is in with a win but would slide into an at-large bid to a New Year’s Six bowl with a loss. It would be a different story had the Tigers not choked up a second-half lead in their loss to LSU in October.

Oklahoma

The Sooners would book a trip to the Sugar Bowl by winning the rematch with TCU to claim the Big 12 title. They even have an ace card: the regular-season win against Ohio State. It’s a major asset, since even with a loss and an OSU win both teams would be sitting at two losses — and Oklahoma would have the head-to-head advantage. On the other hand, Ohio State would be able to tout a conference title. That might lead to Alabama getting into the field, but it also means Oklahoma isn’t automatically eliminated with a loss to the Horned Frogs.

Wisconsin

A win against Ohio State would maintain Wisconsin’s unbeaten record and perhaps even push the Badgers up a spot or two from No. 4. But because of its weak strength of schedule, Wisconsin would not be considered for the top four with a loss to the Buckeyes. The Badgers would reach a second New Year’s Six bowl in a row, however.

Alabama

OK, so here’s where it will get controversial. Like every team currently on the outside looking in, Alabama has no shot if the top four hold serve. But only one needs to lose to give the Tide a shot. The preference would be Oklahoma, since an Oklahoma loss would hurt Ohio State and give the Crimson Tide an edge in the eyes of the selection committee. But all bets are off if Oklahoma wins and the Buckeyes land an impressive win against the Badgers. Though Alabama would cry foul, Ohio State might have a stronger case for the fourth seed.

Georgia

Let’s keep this one simple: Georgia is in with a win against Auburn. The only question might be seeding. No. 6 in the latest rankings, the Bulldogs would have a case for a No. 2 seed and a spot in the Rose Bowl, should Clemson top Miami. But wins by Miami and Oklahoma might land OU in the top spot, sending the Sooners to the Rose Bowl and allowing Georgia to hang in its relative backyard — New Orleans isn’t next door to Atlanta, but it’s in the geographic footprint — for the Sugar Bowl.

Miami (Fla.)

Like Georgia, Miami is locked into the Playoff with a win against Clemson but destined for a January bowl with a loss. While the consensus is that Clemson will win, don’t ignore Miami’s ability to get up for the premier opponents on its schedule — as seen in those impressive wins against Virginia Tech and Notre Dame. While beating Pittsburgh last week would’ve left some wiggle room, there’s no scenario where the Hurricanes get in with a loss to the Tigers.

Ohio State

Win and hope for some chaos. But not just win: Ohio State needs to roll Wisconsin, much as it did to secure a top-four finish in 2014. While they haven’t budged much in the Playoff poll since falling to Iowa, look for the Buckeyes to take a major leap by topping the Badgers, especially with a Clemson win. That would eliminate three teams currently ranked higher: Miami, Wisconsin and the loser of the SEC title game.

And that would lead to the head-to-head comparison with Alabama. The Tide will have their supporters, as well as just one loss to Ohio State’s two. But the Buckeyes would have a major-conference title and three wins against teams ranked in the top 16 of this week’s Playoff rankings, two coming against teams in the top 10. Alabama’s best win comes against LSU, currently No. 17.

Southern California

The odds aren’t good, but the Trojans have a shot. Here’s how it’s done: USC beats Stanford to win the Pac-12, Clemson beats Miami, TCU tops Oklahoma, Auburn wins the rematch with Georgia and Ohio State beats Wisconsin. That would lock in Clemson and Auburn, leaving two spots from the group of the Sooners, Ohio State, Alabama and USC. There’d be an argument, but let’s say Ohio State gets in at No. 3 due to the Big Ten title.

Even if the Sooners’ title-game loss puts them in trouble, it would be hard for the committee to leave out the Tide. But the Trojans would tout a conference title, two wins against Stanford and eight wins in total against bowl teams. In comparison, Alabama would have at least two and maybe three wins against teams currently in the Playoff top 25 — hinging on whether Fresno State tops Boise State in the Mountain West title game — and seven wins in total against bowl-eligible competition. Again, the Trojans would have a shot.

NFL Week 13 kickoff times, TV channel info, game breakdowns

Vikings (9-2) at Falcons (7-4)

TV: Sunday, 1, Fox (Kevin Burkhardt, Charles Davis, Pam Oliver)

The matchup: The Vikings’seventh win in a row – 30-23 over the Detroit Lions – increased their division lead to three games and firmed up their grip on the NFC’s No. 2 playoff spot. Minnesota’s confidence in QB Case Keenum keeps growing, particularly after his third consecutive 100.0-plus rating. Don’t look now, but first-year coordinator Steve Sarkisian’s Falcons offense is humming. In their third win in a row, 34-20 over Tampa Bay, the Falcons matched their season high in scoring and amassed 516 total yards, a best under Sarkisian. Falcons WR Julio Jones vs. Vikings CB Xavier Rhodes is a great matchup, but Jones’ 253-yard, two-TD outburst came the same week Rhodes struggled. The Falcons could be without two key defenders: CB Desmond Trufant (concussion) and nickel Brian Poole (back).

Texans (4-7) at Titans (7-4)

TV: Sunday, 1, CBS (Greg Gumbel, Trent Green, Jamie Erdahl)

The matchup: The Texans are far from mathematically eliminated from winning a third consecutive AFC South title, but it’ll take a lot of help in the last five games. Winning in Nashville and Jacksonville in Weeks 13 and 15 is critical. The Texans are 2-1 at Tennessee under coach Bill O’Brien and rolled the Titans 57-14 earlier this season, but that was long before season-ending injuries to J.J. Watt, Deshaun Watson, Whitney Mercilus and others. Tennessee’s offense has become increasingly one-dimensional in recent weeks and could benefit from opening up the passing game.

Chiefs (6-5) at Jets (4-7)

TV: Sunday, 1, CBS (Ian Eagle, Dan Fouts, Evan Washburn)

The matchup: Despite another dreadful performance by the offense in a 16-10 loss to the Bills, Chiefs coach Andy Reid is resisting calls to play rookie QB Patrick Mahomes and will stick with Alex Smith. Smith threw a pick with 1:25 left, thwarting chances of stopping a skid that has seen Kansas City lose five of six. After tossing one INT in his first nine games, Smith has thrown three the last two games. The Jets’ trend of squandering fourth-quarter leads continued in a 35-27 loss to Carolina, their thrd late blown lead this season.

Broncos (3-8) at Dolphins (4-7)

TV: Sunday, 1, CBS (Dick Stockton, Mark Schlereth, Shannon Spake)

The matchup: Denver changed offensive coordinators (Bill Musgrave replaced Mike McCoy) after the Week 11 loss to Cincinnati and named QB Paxton Lynch the starter, but the result was a seventh loss in a row, 21-14 at Oakland. Paxton was injured and left the game early. Pro Bowl CB Aqib Talib was suspended for two games but became one upon appeal, for fighting with Raiders WR Michael Crabtree. Trevor Siemian, who opened the season as the starter, is back in the role. But the Broncos’ running game is almost non-existent. The Dolphins were 4-2 when they lost to Baltimore 40-0 and were ripped by coach Adam Gase. RB Jay Ajayi was traded days later. But the skid has reached five and they’ve been outscored 177-82 in that span.

Colts (3-8) at Jaguars (7-4)

TV: Sunday, 1, CBS (Kevin Harlan, Rich Gannon)

The matchup: Losers of five of their last six, the Colts must win out to avoid coach Chuck Pagano’s first losing season in six years. QB Jacoby Brissett was sharp again despite being battered for eight sacks, but he’ll be asked to be even better against Jacksonville’s elite defense. Jacksonville went to Arizona with a four-game win streak and a slim AFC South lead. But thanks to a sputtering offense and a 57-yard game-winning field goal, that’s all gone now. Still, “Sacksonville” has 41 sacks, 10 of which came against Indy in their first meeting.

Buccaneers (4-7) at Packers (5-6)

TV: Sunday, 1, Fox (Tim Brando, Greg Jennings, Jennifer Hale)

The matchup: Unless Tampa Bay’s defense can force turnovers, pressure the QB and get off the field on third down, as it failed to do in last week’s 34-20 loss at Atlanta, it may not matter whom coach Dirk Koetter sticks under center. Backup QB Ryan Fitzpatrick is 2-1 since replacing injured starter Jameis Winston, who has been nursing a bum right throwing shoulder and dealing with off-field issues. Green Bay has little margin for error. QB Brett Hundley is coming off his best performance, yet the Pack is 1-4 with him starting.

Lions (6-5) at Ravens (6-5)

TV: Sunday, 1, Fox (Thom Brennaman, Chris Spielman, Peter Schrager)

The matchup: Lions QB Matthew Stafford will let it fly, and with Marvin Jones and Golden Tate catching his passes, Detroit is never out of a game. They’d like to have a few more close games go their way, and for that to happen they need to play better defense and break their habit of too often settling for field goals. The Ravens are a defense-driven team that plays power football. QB Joe Flacco often takes the safe route, but has been helped by the emergence of RB Alex Collins (60 yards and a TD in Week 12), an offensive line that’s settled in after being hit hard by injuries and the threat of WR Mike Wallace on the outside.

Patriots (9-2) at Bills (6-5)

TV: Sunday, 1, CBS (Jim Nantz, Tony Romo, Tracy Wolfson)

The matchup: In beating the Dolphins, New England enjoyed its best ground attack of the season (196 yards) en route to a seventh win in a row, which ensured a 17th consecutive winning season, an NFL record since the 1970 merger. A Bills defense that yielded a franchise-record 135 points over its previous three games redeemed itself in a 16-10 win on the road against Kansas City. QB Tyrod Taylor will start again following a benching that only lasted one half.

49ers (1-10) at Bears (3-8)

TV: Sunday, 1, CBS (Andrew Catalon, James Lofton)

The matchup: Niners rookie QB C.J. Beathard exited late against Seattle with a leg injury from the franchise’s ninth loss in a row. Jimmy Garoppolo will get his first 49ers start in his home state. The Bears guaranteed themselves a fifth consecutive non-winning season with a 24-3 loss to the Eagles.

Browns (0-11) at Chargers (5-6)

TV: Sunday, 4:05, CBS (Spero Dedes, Adam Archuleta)

The matchup: The loss to Cincinnati dropped the Browns to 1-26 since Hue Jackson took over as head coach. Notably, the one win last season was on Christmas Eve at home vs. the Chargers. Browns WR Josh Gordon, who hasn’t played since 2015 because of suspensions, began practicing last week and is expected to be activated. Only six of Chargers QB Philip Rivers’ 33 throws were incomplete for 434 yards, and he had a passer rating of 149.1 in a romp over the Cowboys. Chargers WR Keenan Allen has 23 catches the last two games for 331 yards and 3 TDs.

Giants (2-9) at Raiders (5-6)

TV: Sunday, 4:25, Fox (Kenny Albert, Ronde Barber, Kristina Pink)

The matchup: Giants coach Ben McAdoo has decided to bench two-time Super Bowl champion QB Eli Manning and start Geno Smith. The offense is a complete wreck. On Thanksgiving against Washington, New York managed 170 yards and extended its streak without an offensive TD to six quarters. The Raiders have put themselves back into the playoff picture by winning three of their last five games, including last week against Denver. Already without without WR Michael Crabtree (suspension), they could also be missing Amari Cooper (concussion). Oakland is last in the NFL with seven takeaways but recorded its first interception of the season last week on a deflected pass.

Panthers (8-3) at Saints (8-3)

TV: Sunday, 4:25, Fox (Joe Buck, Troy Aikman, Erin Andrews)

The matchup: The Panthers sidestepped another bad loss (see 17-3 defeat at Chicago in Week 7) with a crucial 35-27 road win vs. the Jets to pull even with the Saints in the NFC South. They have defense and special teams to thank. The Saints were brought back down to earth after getting their eight-game winning streak ended on the road by the L.A. Rams, who took advantage of a Saints secondary that played without starting CBs Marshon Lattimore (ankle) and Ken Crawley (strain to his side).

Rams (8-3) at Cardinals (5-6)

TV: Sunday, 4:25, Fox (Chris Myers, Daryl Johnston, Laura Okmin)

The matchup: Known for their breakout offense, the Rams didn’t really start looking like a legitimate contender until the defense found an identity under new coordinator Wade Phillips. Slowing down the Saints last week was the latest sign these Rams are no longer just a feel-good story. The improvement of the defense and the recent emergence of WRs Sammy Watkins and Cooper Kupp serve as the latest positive signs. Last week’s announcement that Cardinals QB Carson Palmer and RB David Johnson would not return this season was a signal the Cardinals are playing for the future. Coach Bruce Arians should get a lot of mileage out of Arizona’s earlier 33-0 loss to the Rams when trying to motivate his team.

Eagles (10-1) at Seahawks (7-4)

TV: Sunday, 8:25, NBC (Al Michaels, Cris Collinsworth, Michele Tafoya)

The matchup: QB Carson Wentz, the MVP favorite, and the Eagles ride a nine-game win streak into Seattle. Seattle gets a chance to prove it’s a legitimate contender. The hobbled secondary, using cast-aside cornerbacks in Jeremy Lane (traded to Houston, only to fail his physical) and Byron Maxwell, should have its work cut out for it. The Seahawks are never out of a game as long as QB Russell Wilson is in uniform, and his recent symmetry with TE Jimmy Graham has helped awaken the Seattle offense.

Steelers (9-2) at Bengals (5-6)

TV: Monday, 8:30, ESPN (Mike Tirico, Jon Gruden, Lisa Salters)

The matchup: Steelers WR Antonio Brown was the hero as the Steelers escaped the Packers in the final seconds last week. RB Le’Veon Bell continues to chew up tough yards and has contributed in the passing game, too. Several defensive players are turning in career years; LB Ryan Shazier and DE Cameron Heyward lead the way. The Bengals aren’t catching the Steelers in the AFC North, but this game is important to the wild-card race. RB Joe Mixon posted his best game last week, but he and a shaky offensive line need to be better against this defense. WR A.J. Green doesn’t have gaudy numbers but has been his usual, productive self, and QB Andy Dalton has been good enough. The defense faces its stiffest test.

Times p.m. Eastern.

Compiled by Brian Allee-Walsh, Zac Jackson, Jordan Godwin, Scott Pitoniak, Arthur Arkush, Andy Friedlander, Scott Johnson, Howard Balzer.

TNF: Cowboys sans Elliott top Redskins 38-14

This gallery contains 1 photo.

ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — Dak Prescott was getting X-rays on his swollen right hand when rookie Ryan Switzer scored his first career touchdown on an 83-yard punt return.

The extra time with the Dallas offense on the sideline kept Prescott from missing any plays, and last year’s NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year led the Cowboys to their first win after three straight losses without suspended star running back Ezekiel Elliott.

Prescott threw two touchdown passes, including a franchise record-breaker to Dez Bryant , in the Cowboys’ 38-14 victory over the Washington Redskins on Thursday night.

The injury happened in the second quarter when Prescott’s right hand was hit by linebacker Josh Harvey-Clemons just as he made an option pitch to Rod Smith. Thanks to Switzer’s dash to the end zone, Prescott didn’t miss a snap. He said the X-rays came back negative.

“I don’t know if I’ve ever broken my hand,” Prescott said. “I couldn’t grip initially right after because the (hand) swelled up on me so bad. As I said, they wrapped it up, got the swelling down and I was fine.”

Bryant’s leaping 13-yard catch in the end zone was the 2014 All-Pro’s first score in six games and 72nd of his career, one more than Hall of Famer Bob Hayes.

The Cowboys (6-6) never trailed despite a sluggish start to the offense, thanks to three first-half turnovers and four overall by the Redskins (5-7). Dallas kept it going after halftime with a 21-7 scoring edge after getting outscored 72-6 in the second half during the three-game skid.

Alfred Morris, Elliott’s replacement during the six-game suspension for alleged domestic violence, had 127 yards rushing and a clinching touchdown.

The Cowboys forced NFL-leading Philadelphia to wait until at least Sunday to clinch the division title. But Dallas still faces a steep climb to playoff contention, and two more games without Elliott.

The Redskins had already been eliminated in the division race and are virtually out of the postseason picture after Kirk Cousins threw two interceptions and lost a fumble while throwing two touchdown passes.

Jamison Crowder let the pass go through his hands on Cousins’ first interception and fumbled on a Dallas punt a few plays later in the Redskins’ fourth straight loss to the Cowboys, the longest such streak in the series since 2003-04.

“It was just miscues,” Cousins said. “A dropped ball here, we had a nice drive down the field the second drive, just a tough turnover, and then it was one thing after another that were just mistakes. They happen, and we have to correct them.”

By the time the Redskins answered Switzer’s punt return with a 75-yard drive that ended with Cousins’ 20-yard scoring pass to Ryan Grant , Prescott was ready to return. He had been holding his right hand in his helmet once he returned to the sideline.

Rookie backup Cooper Rush had his helmet on when the Redskins punted.

“If we didn’t have the return by Switz, Cooper Rush would have got in the ballgame at that point,” coach Jason Garrett said. “We got the return, Dak was able to come back out.”

Prescott only threw for 102 yards but didn’t have a turnover after throwing five interceptions and losing three fumbles without a touchdown pass during the losing streak.

And the Cowboys looked more like the offense they have when Elliott is around, with Morris picking up big yardage on clock-killing drives with the Cowboys in front.

Cousins moved the Washington offense sporadically because he was consistently harassed behind a patchwork offensive line that had to shuffle some more because of injuries. Cousins, who was 26 of 37 for 251 yards, was replaced by Colt McCoy late in the fourth quarter.

SACKS ARE BACK

DeMarcus Lawrence, the NFL sacks leader most of the first half of the season, had two of Dallas’ four sacks, ending a two-game drought for the entire team and extending his career high to 13 1/2. Cousins was hit hard by David Irving on a sack in the fourth quarter.

BRYANT’S IMPACT

Bryant still hasn’t had a 100-yard game, his longest drought to start a season since his second year in 2011. But the 61-yard effort included a 24-yarder that set up his record-setting TD on the first play of the fourth quarter. “I was talking about that demeanor and that attitude that we carried,” Prescott said. “I give him credit. He kind of brought it this week and pretty much tonight and you kind of felt it early.”

MORE OL SHUFFLING

Redskins right tackle Morgan Moses didn’t return after injuring an ankle in the first half, forcing Ty Nsekhe to that spot after he was a fill-in starter at left guard on a patchwork line that’s been dealing with injuries all season.

Left tackle Trent Williams left the field briefly in the third quarter. He’s been inactive three of the past six games because a knee injury that will require surgery. Washington was already missing center Chase Roullier because of a hand injury.

UP NEXT

Redskins: At Los Angeles Chargers on Dec. 10.

Cowboys: At New York Giants on Dec. 10 to start a season-ending stretch of three of four on the road.

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More AP NFL: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP_NFL

NFL’s best young QBs: Rating passers from elite to subpar

(PhatzRadio Sports / AP)   —   There’s no question about identifying the elite quarterbacks in today’s NFL.

However, Father Time eventually will come calling for the league’s best, including Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Ben Roethlisberger and Aaron Rodgers, as well as seasoned contemporaries in Matt Ryan, Philip Rivers, Eli Manning and Alex Smith.

The NFL then will find itself in the position similar to the one it faced in the late 1990s, when Dan Marino, John Elway, Steve Young, Joe Montana, Warren Moon and Co. rode off into the sunset.

Replacing them were Brett Favre, Peyton Manning, Brady, Donovan McNabb and Brees, followed by Rodgers, Eli Manning and Roethlisberger. The group ended delivering another great era of quarterback play.

An NFL without Brady, Brees and Co. sparks feelings of uneasiness over the state of the quarterback position. But the next generation indeed has promise, with most of it coming from already-thriving young passers. Questions remain about others, but all hope is not lost.

With the help of 12 experts – former quarterbacks and coaches, as well as current and former talent evaluators – USA TODAY has rated the league’s 30-and-under quarterbacks. The men all spoke on the condition of anonymity so they could either speak freely about the level of talent, or avoid commenting on players not on their own rosters.

We’ve broken them down into six categories:

Bona fide franchise QBs

Russell Wilson, Seahawks: Already a Super Bowl champ, Wilson is the unquestioned leader among the quarterbacks in his generation. Accounting for 80% of Seattle’s offense this year, he can do it all. His rating as the top 30-or-under quarterback was unanimous.

Andrew Luck, Colts: Shoulder injury aside, there’s no question about his ability. In each of his first three seasons, he led the Colts to playoff appearances. Since 2012, the Colts own a 43-27 record with Luck. But they’re 9-22 when he’s hurt. If fully recovered, he will regain elite form, everyone agrees. Management needs to give him a better line to ensure he has a long-lasting career.

Rising star

Carson Wentz, Eagles: Some already put him in the bona fide franchise quarterback category. They say he has the chance to become the face of the league. Others opted for the rising star billing to allow more time to prove himself. But as an MVP candidate leading the 10-1 Eagles, the elite projections seem realistic.

Jared Goff, Rams: Give credit to Sean McVay and his offensive assistants for designing a quarterback-friendly system that has helped Goff go from apparent bust to one of the most impressive young QBs in the league. (Tip the cap to Wade Phillips and that defense as well.) But, Goff has worked hard and will continue to grow.

Deshaun Watson, Texans: “Superstar,” one expert blurted the second he heard Watson’s name. “A freak,” said another. “He’s Robert Griffin coming out, but better. He can throw from the pocket, he can throw on the run, he knows when to slide. Has all the intangibles, too. He will be elite.” A torn ACL robbed Watson of a full rookie season, but he was an MVP candidate based on how he had Houston rolling. Insiders expect him to return to full force next year and shine.

Dak Prescott, Cowboys: No Ezekiel Elliott and injuries along the offensive line and defense give you pause. For now, he looks like a solid guy who needs help. But experts stress that Prescott remains a gifted quarterback and expect him to grow and thrive.

Proven performer – but not elite

Cam Newton, Panthers: His play still hasn’t return to his MVP form of 2015. Although he carries his team and possesses elite combination of athleticism, size and play-making ability, a number of our experts say his streaky outings, accuracy issues and the need for more maturity keep them from giving Newton the elite label for now.

Matthew Stafford, Lions: He has all the physical tools to be elite. He has 26 fourth-quarter comeback wins, which ranks him behind only Brady, Brees, Eli Manning and Big Ben among active quarterbacks. But most of our experts find his 0-3 postseason record glaring.

Derek Carr, Raiders: He seemed to be headed for greatness, and Carr very well could still wind up being an elite quarterback. But he has regressed this year. Some insiders say this year’s change at offensive coordinator has hurt Carr, and that the Raiders would be wise to upgrade in the offseason to help him reach his full potential.

Kirk Cousins, Redskins: Now in his third season as a starter after backing up RG3, Cousins is on pace to pass for 4,000 yards for a third consecutive year. He ranks among the most accurate quarterbacks in the league. However, like Stafford, he lacks a playoff win on his resume. Most agree he’s a top-10 passer, but just outside of that elite group.

Solid, but needs help

Andy Dalton, Bengals: The seventh-year pro lacks consistent difference-making ability. His 0-4 career playoff record prompts some of our analysts to describe Dalton as a disappointment.

Tyrod Taylor, Bills: He does a great job of taking care of the ball and managing the offense. He keeps defenses off-balance with his legs. But if his team falls behind and Taylor has to take to the air to save the day, he falls short too often.

Case Keenum, Vikings: See what a quality system, nice weapons and a strong defense can do? Keenum was deemed a below-average journeyman prior to this season. After taking over for an injured Sam Bradford, he is 8-2 as a starter and now on a seven-game win streak.

Marcus Mariota, Titans: There are differing opinions on the third-year pro. Some see him as a solid guy who does well in a gimmicky system that enables him to use his athleticism to compensate for deficiencies in the pocket. Others see him as a still-developing passer who has the chance to become the next Aaron Rodgers.

Sam Bradford, Vikings: This category should probably be “needs health.” Bradford, who just turned 30, has struggled to stay in the lineup long enough to live up to his potential.

Projects

Jameis Winston, Buccaneers: Another 2015 draft class member drawing differing opinions. He has the physical tools to be a rising star. But his accuracy issues, decision making and leadership need work. He also could benefit from organizational stability.

Teddy Bridgewater, Vikings: He’s solid and could be even better, but last year’s devastating knee injury has held him in check. Bridgewater is stuck behind Keenum for now and will have to wait to resume his development.

Mitchell Trubisky, Bears: Good physical tools, but the first-round pick is playing sooner than he should be and could use a coaching/coordinator upgrade like Goff received.

Jimmy Garoppolo, 49ers: Everyone seems high on him, but how much of it is the Patriots’ shine? No one really knows. Garoppolo ensured a weak college team overachieved. Can he do the same for San Francisco with time? We’ll see starting Sunday in Chicago when he gets his first 49ers start.

DeShone Kizer, Browns: Mixed reviews from the experts. Most feel for him that he’s in a horrible situation in Cleveland. Kizer has potential, but it’s hard to say how much.

Brett Hundley, Packers: Some hoped he would’ve matured more from three years behind Rodgers. They don’t like his inconsistency. But he has shown flashes and could become solid.

Jacoby Brissett, Colts: He hasn’t done a bad job filling in for Luck. He shined in spot duty while surrounded by a quality Patriots team. He just needs more time.

AJ McCarron, Bengals: The Browns wanted to trade for him and insert him as a starter. He has potential, but he’s still unproven.

Geno Smith, Giants: He had a 12-18 record with the Jets, throwing 28 touchdowns and 36 interceptions. But he probably played before he was ready. But no one asked about him knows enough to know if he’ll ever mount to more. He will start Sunday in place of 36-year-old Eli Manning.

Need replacing

Tom Savage (Texans), Blake Bortles (Jaguars), Paxton Lynch (Broncos), Brock Osweiler (Broncos), Trevor Siemian (Broncos), Mike Glennon (Bears), C.J. Beathard (49ers), Blaine Gabbert (Cardinals): The consensus on this bunch was that most either are best suited as backups or don’t belong in the league.

Conclusion

The group of already elite passers is small. But there’s potential for that bunch to expand, the talent evaluators, former coaches and quarterbacks all agreed.

One former coach says the depth of the quarterback position in today’s NFL rivals that of the late ‘90s and early 2000s and says the quarterback position is in good hands for the long term.

Two executives – one currently employed and another out of football – predict, however, that the 2018 draft will feature a bumper crop of future star quarterbacks. One predicted as many as five quarterbacks could go in the first round.

But one expert – a former quarterback, who serves as a mentor to a number of today’s young passers – worries about the future of the talent pool, and the quality of the coaching and development the current and future NFL passers will receive.

“The position is in trouble right now because of a couple things,” he said. “The college game not developing them. They sit in the gun, look at the sideline and have the plays called from there. They don’t know how to call plays in a huddle, not ready for pro style. And NFL coaches aren’t doing a good enough job developing in the NFL. They’re playing before they’re ready to play. The CBA cripples and hinders because March and April used to be crucial times to work with quarterbacks and help them make strides, and now you’re not allowed to work with them. So, I worry for these kids.”

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Follow Mike Jones on Twitter @ByMikeJones.

NFL: Eagles, Pats still top 2 in the latest AP Pro32 poll

NEW YORK (AP) — Carson Wentz has turned into one of the NFL’s most dangerous quarterbacks. Jay Ajayi and LeGarrette Blount form a potent duo at running back, and Philadelphia’s stout defense features a tough front line.

Wentz and company are looking down at the rest of the league at the moment. The Eagles maintained their top spot in the AP Pro 32 poll on Tuesday, receiving 11 of 12 first-place votes for 383 points in balloting by media members who regularly cover the NFL.

Philadelphia (10-1) has won nine in a row. It can clinch the NFC East title with a win Sunday night at Seattle or a loss by Dallas on Thursday night against Washington.

“Having outscored opponents by 160 points, the Eagles are chewing them up and spitting them out,” said Charean Williams of Pro Football Talk.

The New England Patriots (9-2), who have won seven in a row, received the other first-place vote and remained No. 2.

The league’s other two 9-2 teams, the Minnesota Vikings and Pittsburgh Steelers, are tied at No. 3. The Vikings have won seven in a row and the Steelers enter their Monday night game at Cincinnati on a six-game winning streak.

“Mike Tomlin’s gritty group is determined to wrest the AFC’s No. 1 playoff seed away from the Patriots and force the Brady Bunch to win at Heinz Field in January,” Ira Kaufman of SB Nation Radio said of the Steelers.

The Los Angeles Rams inched up a spot to No. 5. They beat New Orleans 26-20 last weekend, snapping the Saints’ eight-game win streak.

“The story of the day was the Rams defense, which passed a major test in refusing to be beaten by Drew Brees and a Saints offense that has been moving the ball at will,” said Jenny Vrentas of The Monday Morning Quarterback.

The NFC South, the league’s most competitive division, has the next three teams in the poll.

New Orleans slipped a spot to No. 6 after the loss in Los Angeles. The Carolina Panthers remained at No. 7 heading into Sunday’s big game against the Saints at the Superdome in one of the top matchups of Week 13.

The Atlanta Falcons moved up one to No. 8 and will try to extend their winning streak to four when they host the Vikings.

“The offense is finally clicking. If the defense starts doing the same, watch out,” the Sporting News’ Alex Marvez said of the defending NFC champions.

Seattle is next up at No. 9. The Seahawks trail the Rams by a game in the NFC West.

“(Russell) Wilson carrying this team,” Fox Sports’ John Czarnecki said of the Seahawks quarterback.

The Jacksonville Jaguars and Tennessee Titans, tied for first in the AFC South at 7-4, are Nos. 10 and 11 respectively.

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As the NFL regular season winds down, certain teams are still trying alternative plans at quarterback and coordinator among other panic-button moves. Maybe some will bear desired fruit, but others seem indicative of preliminary death throes for some coaching staffs.

Here’s the latest installment of our weekly hot seat rankings:

1. Ben McAdoo, New York Giants: As if he hadn’t pushed enough of the wrong buttons this year — “Um” — McAdoo will now always be remembered as the guy who benched Eli Manning for … Geno Smith? As the kids text, “smh,” which is far more tempered than what some of Manning’s ex-mates are saying about McAdoo. At least the Giants, headed for a rare berth in the draft’s top five selections, should get an elite prospect out of this shipwreck of a season, but we doubt McAdoo will be around to coach him. Last week: 2

2. Hue Jackson, Cleveland Browns: Oh, Hue. You and original Buccaneers boss John McKay are now the only coaches to oversee consecutive 0-11 starts since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger. Not a fraternity for which anyone would seek membership. But we see why you seemed so excited to be back in Cincinnati on Sunday. The Bengals (with surplus QB AJ McCarron) must look like a model organization compared to what you’ve endured the past two years. Last week: 1

3. Vance Joseph, Denver Broncos: A week ago, his players were denying GM John Elway’s assessment that they were soft. Now they appear to be unhinged, with CB Aqib Talib going rogue Sunday in a melee he and Raiders WR Michael Crabtree sparked. And over the past week-plus, at least three Denver players have been in tears for various reasons. Last week: 4

4. John Fox, Chicago Bears: It’s becoming increasingly clear that rookie QB Mitchell Trubisky needs a Sean McVay-esque offensive Jedi to spark his development given how the offense performed (no first-half first downs) Sunday. Fox may be a capable X-Wing squadron leader. But he’s no Jedi. Last week: 3

5. Chuck Pagano, Indianapolis Colts: Andrew Luck’s still nowhere to be found. But your team played hard on Sunday, Chuck … even though it lost another close one. You sure could use some better players. Yup, we can see why you feel like you’re stuck in Groundhog Day. Last week: 5

6. Marvin Lewis, Cincinnati Bengals: Look who’s only one game out of the AFC’s second wild-card spot. But look whose team still doesn’t play particularly well against opponents not based in Northeast Ohio. Yep, same guy who still doesn’t have a contract for 2018. Sorry, Marvin. Last week: 6

Week 11 rankings (Hue Jackson)
Week 10 rankings (Ben McAdoo)
Week 9 rankings (Ben McAdoo)
Week 8 rankings (Hue Jackson)
Week 7 rankings (Chuck Pagano)
Week 6 rankings (Hue Jackson)
Week 5 rankings (Hue Jackson)
Week 4 rankings (Hue Jackson)
Week 3 rankings (Marvin Lewis)
Week 2 rankings (Marvin Lewis)
Week 1 rankings (Chuck Pagano)

***

(###) Number of first place votes
 
1
Record: 10-1
PV Rank

1

Points

383

2
Record: 9-2
2
370
3
Record: 9-2
3
354
3
Record: 9-2
4
354
5
Record: 8-3
6
336
6
Record: 8-3
5
317
7
Record: 8-3
7
316
8
Record: 7-4
9
304
9
Record: 7-4
10
286
10
Record: 7-4
8
268
11
Record: 7-4
13
260
12
Record: 6-5
12
236
13
Record: 5-6
16
233
14
Record: 6-5
14
231
15
Record: 6-5
11
226
16
Record: 6-5
18
219
17
Record: 5-6
17
194
18
Record: 5-6
15
162
19
Record: 5-6
21
161
20
Record: 5-6
22
160
21
Record: 5-6
19
151
21
Record: 5-6
23
151
23
Record: 4-7
20
119
24
Record: 4-7
24
104
25
Record: 4-7
25
92
26
Record: 4-7
26
86
27
Record: 3-8
27
68
28
Record: 3-8
29
62
29
Record: 3-8
28
54
30
Record: 2-9
30
38
31
Record: 1-10
31
29
32
Record: 0-11
32
12

Follow Nate Davis on Twitter @ByNateDavis

NFL playoff picture through Week 12 games

This gallery contains 1 photo.

SCOREBOARD

Monday, Nov. 21

Houston at Baltimore, 8:30 p.m. EST. Terrell Suggs and the Baltimore Ravens try for their fourth shutout of the season when they host DeAndre Hopkins and the Houston Texans. Suggs got two more sacks as Baltimore (5-5) beat Green Bay 23-0 last weekend. Houston (4-6) is coming off a 31-21 victory over Arizona, which stopped a three-game losing streak and included a 28-yard touchdown reception for Hopkins.

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STARS

Passing

—Jared Goff, Rams, passed for 354 yards and two touchdowns, powering Los Angeles to a 26-20 victory against the New Orleans Saints.

—Tom Brady, Patriots, threw for 227 yards and four touchdowns to lead New England to a 35-17 win against the Miami Dolphins.

—Matt Ryan, Falcons, completed 28 of 35 passes for 317 yards and a touchdown, sending Atlanta to a 34-20 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

—Carson Wentz, Eagles, passed for 227 yards and three touchdowns to help Philadelphia beat the Chicago Bears 31-3 for its ninth straight victory.

—Russell Wilson, Seahawks, passed for two TDs and ran for a score, leading Seattle to a 24-13 win against the San Francisco 49ers.

—Josh McCown, Jets, threw for 307 yards and three TDs in New York’s 35-27 loss to the Carolina Panthers.

—Derek Carr, Raiders, was 18 for 24 for 253 yards and two touchdowns in Oakland’s 21-14 victory against the Denver Broncos.

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Rushing

—Alvin Kamara, Saints, had a 74-yard touchdown run and a 15-yard TD reception in New Orleans’ 26-20 loss at the Los Angeles Rams.

—Joe Mixon, Bengals, rushed for a career-high 114 yards to lead Cincinnati to a 30-16 win against the Cleveland Browns.

—Dion Lewis, Patriots, had 15 carries for 112 yards, helping New England to a 35-17 victory against the Miami Dolphins.

—Tevin Coleman, Falcons, rushed for 97 yards and two TDs in Atlanta’s 34-20 win against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

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Receiving

—Julio Jones, Falcons, had 12 receptions for 253 yards and two touchdowns, leading Atlanta to a 34-20 win against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

—Robby Anderson, Jets, had six catches for 146 yards and two TDs in New York’s 35-27 loss to the Carolina Panthers.

—Zach Ertz, Eagles, had 10 receptions for 103 yards and a touchdown in Philadelphia’s 31-3 win against the Chicago Bears.

—Rob Gronkowski, Patriots, had two touchdown receptions in New England’s 35-17 victory against Miami.

—Cooper Kupp, Rams, had eight receptions for 116 yards, helping Los Angeles to a 26-20 win against the New Orleans Saints.

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Special Teams

—Phil Dawson, Cardinals, kicked four field goals in Arizona’s 27-24 victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars, including a career-long 57-yarder with 1 second to play.

—Kaelin Clay, Panthers, had a 60-yard punt return for a fourth-quarter touchdown in Carolina’s 35-27 win at the New York Jets.

—Adam Vinatieri, Colts, kicked three field goals in Indianapolis’ 20-16 loss to the Tennessee Titans.

—Randy Bullock, Bengals, went 3 for 3 on field goal attempts, helping Cincinnati to a 30-16 victory against the Cleveland Browns.

—Greg Zuerlein, Rams, kicked four field goals in Los Angeles’ 26-20 win against the New Orleans Saints, including three from at least 46 yards.

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Defense

—Luke Kuechly, Panthers, returned a fumble 34 yards for a touchdown in Carolina’s 35-27 win at the New York Jets.

—Calais Campbell, Cardinals, returned a fumble 10 yards for a TD in Arizona’s 27-24 win against the Jacksonville Jaguars.

—DaQuan Jones, Titans, had two of Tennessee’s eight sacks in a 20-16 victory at the Indianapolis Colts.

—Tre’Davious White, Bills, had a key interception that helped Buffalo to a 16-10 win at the Kansas City Chiefs.

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FLYING FALCONS

It was quite a day for Julio Jones and the Atlanta Falcons. Jones finished with 12 receptions for 253 yards and two touchdowns in Atlanta’s 34-20 victory against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. It was Jones’ third career game with at least 250 yards receiving; no other player has more than one. Jones also set NFL records for most catches and yards receiving in his first 90 games, running his career totals to 563 receptions for 8,649 yards. He passed Anquan Boldin (558 receptions) and Hall of Famer Lance Alworth (8,502 yards). Jones got one of his TDs on a 51-yard pass from Mohamed Sanu, who became the first wide receiver since the 1970 merger with multiple touchdown passes of 50-plus yards. Sanu had one for Cincinnati four years ago.

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FIGHTING CHANCE

The feud between Oakland receiver Michael Crabtree and Denver cornerback Aqib Talib spilled over into a new season, resulting in a full-blown brawl and three ejections. Crabtree has been upset ever since Talib ripped Crabtree’s chain off his neck during the regular-season finale last season. Crabtree sat out the first meeting this season in Denver with a chest injury, but didn’t wait long to try for revenge in the rematch. On the second play of Oakland’s second drive in its 21-14 win, Crabtree aggressively blocked Talib on a running play and drove him to the ground on the Broncos sideline. Talib ripped Crabtree’s chain off his neck while they were tangled up, and a brawl ensued. Several Broncos players surrounded Crabtree as he tussled with Talib before his Raiders teammates could come to his assistance. Guard Gabe Jackson pushed an official while trying to join in and got ejected for his actions, along with Crabtree and Talib. Suspensions could be coming.

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ABOUT THOSE EAGLES

Carson Wentz led the way as Philadelphia improved to 10-1 with a 31-3 victory against the Chicago Bears. It’s the fourth time in franchise history the Eagles have started a season 10-1 or better, and they made it to the NFL championship each of the previous three occasions. Wentz tossed three touchdown passes to run his NFL-best total to 28, breaking Hall of Famer Sonny Jurgensen’s team record for most through the first 11 games of a season.

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HO-HUM

Call it business as usual for Tom Brady and the New England Patriots, who held off the Miami Dolphins for a 35-17 victory. Brady tossed four touchdown passes as New England clinched its 17th consecutive season with a winning record. It’s the longest such streak since 1970, topping the previous record held by the 1970-1985 Dallas Cowboys and 1983-1998 San Francisco 49ers. Brady has 26 touchdown passes, the most by a quarterback in a season at the age of 40 or older.

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BOUNCING BACK

Russell Wilson knows how to get back on track after a loss. He passed for two touchdowns and ran for a score to help the Seattle Seahawks to a 24-13 win at the San Francisco 49ers. Wilson improved to 23-4 (.852) following an in-season loss, the best record by a starting quarterback since the 1970 merger (minimum 15 such starts).

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DOUBLE TROUBLE

Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram were responsible for 224 yards from scrimmage in the New Orleans Saints’ 26-20 loss to the Los Angeles Rams. Kamara and Ingram are the first running back teammates to each have at least 1,000 yards from scrimmage and eight touchdowns in a team’s first 11 games in the Super Bowl era. Kamara had five carries for 87 yards and a touchdown against Los Angeles, and also had six receptions for 101 yards and a TD.

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WHAT A FINISH

Carolina put together an unlikely rally in a 35-27 victory over the New York Jets. Luke Kuechly returned a fumble 34 yards for a go-ahead touchdown with 12:05 left, and Kaelin Clay added a 60-yard punt return for another score during the Panthers’ 17-point fourth quarter. It was the second time in franchise history that Carolina had two touchdown returns in the fourth quarter of a game. The first occasion was on Oct. 8, 1995, against Chicago in the Panthers’ inaugural season.

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SIDELINED

Carolina lost tight end Greg Olsen and linebacker Thomas Davis in the second half of its 35-27 win against the New York Jets. Olsen was sidelined with a foot injury after he missed the previous eight games with a broken foot, but said afterward he felt and it just got a little sore. Davis had a thigh injury, but coach Ron Rivera said he was also just sore. … Quarterback Paxton Lynch departed in the third quarter of Denver’s 21-14 loss at Oakland after hurting his ankle on a rollout in his first start of the season. He had missed much of the year with a sprained shoulder. … Oakland receiver Amari Cooper left in the first half with a concussion after being hurt on an illegal hit by Denver safety Darian Stewart. Cooper was down on the turf for several minutes before leaving. … San Francisco starting quarterback C.J. Beathard went down on a hit by Seattle’s Michael Bennett as he threw a pass late in the fourth quarter of the 49ers’ 24-13 loss. … The Bucs sustained some huge blows during their 34-20 loss at Atlanta, losing running back Doug Martin (concussion), safety T.J. Ward (concussion), safety Josh Robinson (hamstring) and defensive tackle Clinton McDonald (back).

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SPEAKING

“We tried rolling the coverage to him. We tried pressing him. We didn’t have an answer for him.” — Tampa Bay coach Dirk Koetter on Atlanta receiver Julio Jones.

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“I always hear, ‘That was an ugly win,’ but I’ve never heard such a thing as a pretty loss. Either way it goes, we would prefer to get a win today. A great team win. It wasn’t a blockbuster outing offensively for us, statistics-wise. But at the end of the day, we found ways to win the football game.” — Carolina quarterback Cam Newton on the Panthers’ 35-27 win against the New York Jets.

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Here’s how the NFL playoff picture looks after Week 12’s Sunday action.

NFC
1. Philadelphia Eagles (10-1): NFC East leader. They maintain the NFL’s best record after their fifth straight double-digit win. The Eagles clinch the division with a victory next week or a loss by the Cowboys on Thursday.

2. Minnesota Vikings (9-2): NFC North leader. Winners of seven in a row, they’re also closing in on a division crown after opening up a three-game lead on Thanksgiving.

3. Los Angeles Rams (8-3): NFC West leader. They move up a spot by beating New Orleans, gaining a potentially valuable tiebreaker in the process.

4. New Orleans Saints (8-3): NFC North leader. Their eight-game win streak is over. But it began in Week 3 with a win over Carolina, which keeps New Orleans atop the division … for now. But the Panthers come to the Superdome next weekend.

5. Carolina Panthers (8-3): Wild card No. 1. After surviving the scrappy Jets, they now have a chance to move into the lead of a hyper-competitive division next week.

6. Atlanta Falcons (7-4): Wild card No. 2. Their outlook has been rekindled by a three-game win streak. But the Dirty Birds will have to earn their way back to postseason — over the final five weeks, they’ll face the Saints twice, Vikings and Panthers.

In the hunt: Seattle Seahawks (7-4), Detroit Lions (6-5), Green Bay Packers (5-6), Arizona Cardinals (5-6), Dallas Cowboys (5-6), Washington Redskins (5-6)

AFC
1. Pittsburgh Steelers (9-2): AFC North leader. A narrow win over the Packers and the strength of victory tiebreaker keeps them on inside track for home-field advantage.

2. New England Patriots (9-2): AFC East leader. Their seventh straight win allows them to keep pace with Pittsburgh. Three more weeks until the AFC juggernauts settle this on the field.

3. Tennessee Titans (7-4): AFC South leader. Yet again, they struggled to beat a lowly opponent. But the Titans escaped the Colts, and their Week 2 win at Jacksonville now vaults them back atop the division.

4. Kansas City Chiefs (6-5): AFC West leader. They’re doing their best to abdicate. After a heady 5-0 start, K.C. has lost five of six and now has just a one-game divisional edge on the Chargers and Raiders.

5. Jacksonville Jaguars (7-4): Wild card No. 1. Tough loss in the desert, but their next three will be played in Jacksonville. Week 17 game in Nashville looms large.

6. Buffalo Bills (6-5): Wild card No. 2. QB Tyrod Taylor has them back in play to end North America’s longest pro team sports playoff drought. For now. But if the Ravens beat Houston on Monday night, Baltimore pushes Buffalo out of the field.

In the hunt: Baltimore Ravens (5-5), Cincinnati Bengals (5-6), Los Angeles Chargers (5-6), Oakland Raiders (5-6), Houston Texans (4-6)

***

Follow Nate Davis on Twitter @ByNateDavis

For more NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP_NFL

NFL Roundup: Carson Wentz leads NFL-leading Eagles past Bears, 31-3

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(PhatzRadio Sports / AP)   —   Carson Wentz tossed three touchdown passes and the NFL-leading Philadelphia Eagles beat the Chicago Bears 31-3 on Sunday in Philadelphia for their ninth straight win.

The Eagles (10-1) reduced their magic number to clinch the NFC East to one with their fourth consecutive win by at least 23 points and third in a row by exactly 28. Philadelphia would secure its first division title since 2013 if the Cowboys (5-6) lose or tie Washington on Thursday night.

Wentz had 227 yards passing, LeGarrette Blount ran for 97 yards and Zach Ertz caught 10 passes for 103 yards and one TD.

The defense dominated rookie quarterback Mitchell Trubisky and the inept Bears (3-8), holding them to zero first downs in the first half and 140 total yards in the game.

The Bears won the turnover battle (3-2), but couldn’t do anything with excellent field position.

RAIDERS 21, BRONCOS 14: Derek Carr threw two touchdown passes after losing starting receiver Michael Crabtree to an ejection for his role in a brawl, and the Raiders spoiled Paxton Lynch’s first start of the season in Oakland, California.

The story coming into the game was about the upheaval for the two teams after Denver (3-8) fired offensive coordinator Mike McCoy and made another quarterback change and Oakland (5-6) fired defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr .

But the fight between Crabtree and cornerback Aqib Talib that led to three ejections ended up overshadowing the recent disarray even as the Raiders recorded their long-awaited first interception of the season in their first game under defensive play-caller John Pagano. The Broncos lost seven games in a row for the first time in 50 years.

The fight was a continuation of a dispute that started last season when Talib ripped Crabtree’s chain off during the season finale. Crabtree missed the first game between the teams this year, but wasted little time seeking revenge.

Oakland guard Gabe Jackson pushed an official while trying to join in and got ejected for his actions, along with Crabtree and Talib.

The Raiders then dominated on the field after ending the longest season-opening interception drought in NFL history. With the Broncos at the 1, Lynch looked for tight end Virgil Green in the end zone. The ball bounced off Green and Raiders safety Reggie Nelson before landing in NaVorro Bowman’s arms as he was lying on the turf for Oakland’s first interception.

STEELERS 31, PACKERS 28: Chris Boswell kicked a career-long 53-yard field goal as time expired to give Pittsburgh the victory over Green Bay in Pittsburgh.

The Steelers (9-2) won their sixth straight thanks in large part to wide receiver Antonio Brown. Brown caught 10 passes for 169 yards and two scores and also made a pair of catches on the deciding drive, including a 23-yard grab on the sideline that put the Steelers into Green Bay territory.

Brown added a 14-yard reception on the next play. Two snaps, later Boswell drilled the winner and his teammates mobbed him at midfield.

Ben Roethliberger threw for 351 yards with four touchdowns and two interceptions. Le’Veon Bell ran for 95 yards and added another 88 yards receiving.

Brett Hundley completed 17 of 26 for 245 yards and three touchdowns for Green Bay (5-6) in his best start since taking over for injured Aaron Rodgers. Jamaal William ran for 66 yards, including a 4-yard leap into the end zone with 2:02 that tied it at 28.

The teams traded punts before Pittsburgh took over at its 30 with 17 seconds to go. It was just enough time for Roethlisberger and Brown to push the Steelers within the fringe of Boswell’s range as Pittsburgh kept pace with New England for the AFC’s best record.

PATRIOTS 35, DOLPHINS 17: Tom Brady tossed four touchdown passes – including two to Rob Gronkowski – and the Patriots pushed through injuries and a mistake-filled game in Foxborough, Massachusetts.

New England (9-2) posted its seventh consecutive victory and third straight win over Miami. The Dolphins (4-7) have lost five straight for their longest slide since 2011.

It was Brady’s 28th career game with four or more touchdown passes, ranking third all-time. His 26 touchdowns passes are the most in a season after turning 40 years old.

Rex Burkhead also scored two TDs and Dion Lewis had 15 carries for 112 yards for New England, marking his first career 100-yard game.

The Dolphins played without quarterback Jay Cutler, who practiced Friday, but remained in the concussion protocol. Matt Moore struggled to find a rhythm in his second start of the season.

Nate Ebner left with a knee injury after his fake punt run in the first quarter. Trevor Reilly left with a head injury after a collision. DL Trey Flowers (ribs) and LB Marquis Flowers left in the third quarter after a collision., and OL LaAdrian Waddle left in the fourth quarter with an ankle injury. LB Kyle Van Noy (leg) was able to walk off the field on his own after being shaken up in the fourth.

FALCONS 34, BUCCANEERS 20: Julio Jones hauled in 12 passes for 253 yards and two touchdowns in Atlanta in one of the best games of his career.

Rekindling memories of the Super Bowl, the Falcons (7-4) nearly squandered a big lead to a team playing its third game without injured quarterback Jameis Winston. The Buccaneers (4-7) rebounded from a 27-6 deficit behind backup Ryan Fitzpatrick and drove deep into Atlanta territory after forcing a fumble at the other end of the field.

But Keanu Neal battled down Fitzpatrick’s pass on fourth-and-1 at the Atlanta 18 with just over seven minutes remaining, and the Falcons drove for a clinching touchdown on Tevin Coleman’s 14-yard run with just under two minutes to go.

Jones, who had only one touchdown catch through the first 10 games, doubled that total in the first half. He hauled in a 51-yard scoring pass from fellow receiver Mohamed Sanu and went 25 yards for a TD on a throw from Matt Ryan, finishing off the play with a spectacular dive for the pylon.

Jones now has three games in his brilliant career with at least 250 yards receiving. He had a career-high 300 yards vs. Carolina last season and 259 at Green Bay in 2014. No other player in NFL history has more than one game with 250 yards receiving.

BENGALS 30, BROWNS 16: Rookie Joe Mixon ran for a career-high 114 yards in Cincinnati in the Bengals’ best offensive showing since the last time they faced Cleveland.

The result sent the Browns into December still winless for the second year in a row.

The Bengals (5-6) won back-to-back games for the second time this season. They hadn’t scored so many points since they won 31-7 at Cleveland on Oct. 1.

Mixon also had an 11-yard touchdown that put it away in the fourth quarter. The Bengals came into the game with the worst rushing offense in the NFL, making it to 100 yards only once before.

At 0-11, the Browns are starting to run out of chances for that breakthrough win. Last year, they waited until their 15th game to get their only victory and avoid the second 0-16 season in NFL history.

RAMS 26, SAINTS 20: Jared Goff passed for 354 yards and hit Sammy Watkins and rookie Josh Reynolds for touchdowns, and the Rams snapped the Saints’ eight-game winning streak in a meeting of NFC division leaders in Los Angeles.

NFL scoring leader Greg Zuerlein kicked four field goals for the Rams (8-3), who earned their fifth victory in six games. For the first time since 2006, this revitalized franchise is guaranteed not to finish the regular season with a losing record.

Los Angeles turned in a gritty defensive effort against the high-scoring Saints (8-3), holding Drew Brees to 246 yards passing – just 96 in the first three quarters – and sacking him three times.

Alvin Kamara made an early 74-yard touchdown run and a late TD reception for the Saints, who finally lost for the first time since Sept. 17.

One week after rallying from 15 points down late in the fourth quarter to beat Washington in overtime, the Saints fell behind on the opening drive and never caught up.

CARDINALS 27, JAGUARS 24: Phil Dawson kicked a career-long 57-yard field goal with 1 second to play in Glendale, Arizona, snapping the Jaguars’ four-game winning streak and dropping them into a tie with Tennessee for the AFC South lead.

The 42-year-old kicker, who had uncharacteristically missed six field goals this season, also was good from 34 and 42 yards as the Cardinals (5-6) beat a team with a winning record for the first time this season.

Jacksonville (7-4) trailed most of the game, but took a 17-16 lead when ex-Cardinal Calais Campbell returned Blaine Gabbert’s fumble 10 yards for a touchdown with 12:10 to play.

Gabbert, though, brought Arizona back, heaving a 52-yard TD pass to Jaron Brown. Gabbert’s 2-point conversion pass to Larry Fitzgerald had Arizona up 24-17.

Corey Grant’s 68-yard return of the ensuing kickoff led to Blake Bortles’ second rushing touchdown of the day, from 17 yards, and it was tied at 24 with 7:26 left.

Gabbert threw two sideline completions, the second one to D.J. Foster with 6 seconds to go – Foster made a lunging tippy-toe catch that had to be reviewed – to get close enough for the winning field goal. It was a bit of redemption for Gabbert, drafted in the first round by Jacksonville in 2011 but traded away for a sixth-round pick after a disappointing stay.

SEAHAWKS 24, 49ERS 13: Russell Wilson threw for two touchdowns to give him 150 career TDs passing and also ran for a short score in Santa Clara, California.

Wilson connected on a 17-yard touchdown pass to Nick Vannett in the third quarter, and a 1-yarder early in the fourth to Jimmy Graham, whose 16 TD receptions passed Jerramy Stevens for most by a Seattle tight end.

Jimmy Garoppolo made his 49ers debut with 1:07 remaining after starting quarterback C.J. Beathard went down on a hit by Michael Bennett as he threw a pass. Garoppolo – acquired from New England at the trade deadline last month and hoped by the 49eers (1-10) to stay on the shelf a little longer – immediately scrambled to gain 4 yards and found Louis Murphy for a 10-yard touchdown as time expired.

Wilson completed 20 of 34 passes for 228 yards and moved past Joe Flacco to become the winningest quarterback in his first six seasons with 63 victories.

The Seahawks (7-4) won their ninth straight in the series in a streak that began with the NFC title game in January 2014 at Seattle.

BILLS 16, CHIEFS 10: Tyrod Taylor threw for 183 yards and a touchdown in his return to the starting lineup, Tre’Davious White intercepted Alex Smith with just over a minute remaining to clinch it in Kansas City, Missouri.

Zay Jones had the touchdown reception and Stephen Hauschka kicked three field goals for the Bills (6-5), but the story was their defense – or the Chiefs’ complete lack of offense.

Kansas City (6-5) managed only 236 yards while losing for the fifth time in six games.

It was an especially gratifying win for Bills coach Sean McDermott, who spent 10-plus seasons working for Chiefs counterpart Andy Reid in Philadelphia. And it was even more so considering the heat McDermott had been under after his questionable quarterback change last week.

Hauschka missed a 52-yard field-goal try late in the first half, ending his NFL-record streak of 13 straight from at least 50 yards. The streak dated to 2014 when he was with Seattle. He bounced back to hit from 56 yards, giving him a Bills-record seven 50-plus makes this season.

PANTHERS 35, JETS 27: Luke Kuechly returned a fumble 34 yards for a touchdown and Kaelin Clay had a 60-yard punt return for a score, capping a stunning swing in the fourth quarter that lifted the Panthers in East Rutherford, New Jersey.

It was the fourth straight victory for the Panthers (8-3), who were trying to keep pace with the first-place Saints in the NFC South. The teams meet next Sunday at New Orleans.

This one turned in a span of 2 minutes, 11 seconds on mistakes by the Jets (4-7) – and the Panthers taking advantage.

First, Kuechly scooped up a fumble by Josh McCown, who was sacked by Wes Horton and had the ball knocked out of his hand as he was about to throw, and rumbled to the end zone for a touchdown.

Cam Newton then hurdled over linebacker Jordan Jenkins for the 2-point conversion to give the Panthers a 26-20 lead with 12:05 left.

Then Clay fielded Lachlan Edwards’ kick and spun out of a tackle attempt and sped into the end zone.

TITANS 20, COLTS 16: The Titans got their first win in 10 tries at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis when DeMarco Murray scored on a 1-yard touchdown run with 5:59 left.

The Titans (7-4) pulled off their first series sweep since 2002. And they did it by rallying from a 10-point third-quarter deficit again – just as they had six weeks earlier against the Colts.

Indy (3-8) has lost three straight home games and five of its last six overall. It is one loss away from having the first losing year in coach Chuck Pagano’s six seasons.

Tennessee won despite making only one first down during a 30-minute stretch and playing in chilly conditions after Colts officials opened the roof and the window in the north end zone.

NFL Week 12 kickoff times, TV channel info, game breakdowns

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(PhatzRadio Sports / USA Today Sports)   —    Here’s how the NFL playoff picture looks through Thursday’s action.

NFC
1. Philadelphia Eagles (9-1): NFC East leader. They’ve essentially wrapped up the division after embarrassing the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday night. Philly now has a four-game bulge with six left to play and is 4-0 against NFC East competition.

2. Minnesota Vikings (9-2): NFC North leader. Their Thanksgiving win over Detroit gives them a commanding three-game lead in the division.

3. New Orleans Saints (8-2): NFC North leader. They extended their winning streak to eight by the slimmest of margins. Next week’s game against the Rams in Los Angeles could have weighty seeding ramifications for both teams.

4. Los Angeles Rams (7-3): NFC West leader. One of the league’s promising young teams just got a huge wake-up call against quality opposition.

5. Carolina Panthers (7-3): Wild card No. 1. Can’t overlook the Jets this week if they want Week 13’s game at New Orleans to potentially be for NFC South lead.

6. Atlanta Falcons (6-4): Wild card No. 2. Monday night’s win over the Seahawks coupled with a defeat of the Lions in Week 3 puts the defending NFC champs back into the field.

In the hunt: Seattle Seahawks (6-4), Detroit Lions (6-5), Green Bay Packers (5-5)

AFC
1. Pittsburgh Steelers (8-2): AFC North leader. Their 6-1 conference record currently confers the tie-breaking edge, but everyone expects the Steelers and Patriots to settle the AFC’s battle for home-field advantage on the field in Week 15.

2. New England Patriots (8-2): AFC East leader. They’re cruising, as usual at this point of the season. They come home next week to host the Dolphins, then have to navigate three more consecutive road games, culminating with that Dec. 17 date at Pittsburgh.

3. Jacksonville Jaguars (7-3): AFC South leader. Winners of three straight, the Jags finally seem to be overcoming their inconsistency.

4. Kansas City Chiefs (6-4): AFC West leader. Ugly loss Sunday to a brutal Giants team. But the Chiefs are fortunate to be in a shockingly terrible division, maintaining a two-game edge despite dropping four of five.

5. Tennessee Titans (6-4): Wild card No. 1. Their next four are against sub-.500 teams, so they’re not out of the AFC South race by any stretch.

6. Baltimore Ravens (5-5): Wild card No. 2. And you thought this team was nevermore. A half-game edge in AFC games gives them this spot over Buffalo for now. But given the way the spiraling Bills are playing and Baltimore’s generally soft schedule, advantage Ravens. However several 4-6 teams are just a mini hot streak away from entering the fray.

In the hunt: Buffalo Bills (5-5), Los Angeles Chargers (5-6), Miami Dolphins (4-6), New York Jets (4-6), Cincinnati Bengals (4-6), Houston Texans (4-6), Oakland Raiders (4-6)

***

NFL Week 12 kickoff times, TV channel info, game breakdowns

Titans (6-4) at Colts (3-7)

TV: Sunday, 1, CBS (Chris Myers, Daryl Johnston, Laura Okmin)

The matchup: Tennessee had its four-game winning streak ended by an ugly 40-17 loss in Pittsburgh and will stay on the road for a critical AFC South divisional matchup. Marcus Mariota threw four interceptions in perhaps the worst game of his career. The running game was held to a season-low 52 yards on 21 attempts, and Titans coach Mike Mularkey will have to find quick fixes to help his team keep pace with Jacksonville for the division title. Aside from a 20-14 win in Houston in Week 9, the Colts have been in a tailspin for much of the last month. Would a late-season turnaround be enough to save the job of embattled coach Chuck Pagano? The Titans have never won at Lucas Oil Stadium, losing nine in a row, and haven’t won in Indianapolis since Dec. 30, 2007. Tennessee’s ground woes could be remedied against the Colts’ Swiss cheese run defense, which ranks 29th in rushing TDs allowed and 18th in rushing yards allowed.

Bears (3-7) at Eagles (9-1)

TV: Sunday, 1, Fox (Kevin Burkhardt, Charles Davis, Pam Oliver)

The matchup: For the second week in a row the Bears defense faltered in a 27-24 loss to the Detroit Lions, dropping coach John Fox’s record to 12-30. That it came in front of more than 10,000 empty seats at Soldier Field won’t help Fox’s cause, nor will losing 2016 first-round OLB Leonard Floyd to a season-ending knee injury. The Eagles entered the bye as the NFL’s top club and emerged no different in a 37-9 road dismantling of the Dallas Cowboys – Philadelphia’s seventh win in a row, including four in a row scoring at least 33 points. Eagles QB Carson Wentz has thrown for at least two TDs in six games in a row, the NFL’s longest active streak. Philly’s D-line is stacked, and after the acquisition of RB Jay Ajayi, its backfield is also an embarrassment of riches. Yet to phone it in this season, the Bears can keep battling or wave the white flag.

Panthers (7-3) at Jets (4-6)

TV: Sunday, 1, Fox (Thom Brennaman, Chris Spielman, Peter Schrager)

The matchup: On paper, this game should amount to nothing more than a tuneup for the Panthers leading to a Week 13 showdown at NFC South-leading New Orleans. But if Carolina is caught looking ahead, the Jets could pull off the shocker. The Panthers are hitting on all cylinders during their current three-game winning streak, combining a stingy defense, a rejuvenated running game and a potent passing game triggered by now healthy QB Cam Newton. With each week, the Jets’ chances increase exponentially to secure a top-10 draft pick in April more so than earning a playoff berth. Journeyman QB Josh McCown will remain under center for coach Todd Bowles, whose team faces a brutal closing stretch that includes a home game vs. Kansas City and games at New Orleans and New England. The Jets will need to protect McCown (32 sacks) and open holes for RBs Bilal Powell, Elijah McGuire and Matt Forte to challenge the No. 2-ranked defense.

Dolphins (4-6) at Patriots (8-2)

TV: Sunday, 1, CBS (Ian Eagle, Dan Fouts, Evan Washburn)

The matchup: The Dolphins have been outscored 142-65 while losing four games in a row. QB Jay Cutler threw three INTs before leaving with a concussion on the final play of the first half. Backup QB Matt Moore led a spirited comeback, throwing for 282 yards and one TD, but the rally came up short in a 30-20 loss to Tampa Bay. Moore could start this week, depending on Cutler’s status. New England’s march to a ninth consecutive AFC East title continued as it extended its win streak to six with a 33-8 win vs. Oakland in Mexico City. The win was the 271st of Bill Belichick’s coaching career, moving him past Tom Landry into sole possession of third place. New England’s march to a ninth consecutive AFC East title continued as it extended its winning streak to six with a 33-8 victory against the Oakland Raiders. At 40, QB Tom Brady refuses to act his age. He has 22 TD passes and two INTs with a 110.9 passer rating.

Buccaneers (4-6) vs. Falcons (6-4)

TV: Sunday, 1, Fox (Tim Brando, Greg Jennings, Jennifer Hale)

The matchup: Bucs QB Jameis Winston (right shoulder) isn’t ready yet to play. That said, the Bucs are riding a two-game win streak with backup QB Ryan Fitzpatrick, including 30-20 at the Miami Dolphins in Week 11, their first road victory this season. Atlanta, meanwhile, can ill afford to lose any more ground in the NFC South to the Saints and Panthers. To make things worse, the Falcons had a long flight home from Seattle after winning Monday night and a short work week to prepare for the pesky Bucs. The Falcons are 2-2 in their new, $1.6 billion stadium, including late losses to the Bills and Dolphins. The Bucs need their defense to continue forcing turnovers. That has been the one constant during their two-game winning streak. For Atlanta, DE Adrian Clayborn made headlines with six sacks vs. the Cowboys in Week 10.

Browns (0-10) at Bengals (4-6)

TV: Sunday, 1, CBS (Andrew Catalon, James Lofton)

The matchup: The Browns have seen improvement from their run game in recent weeks, and their run defense has been fairly consistent all season. But rookie QB DeShone Kizer keeps turning the ball over, injuries are mounting and it’s going to be difficult for the league’s youngest team to crack the win column. To win, they’ll need an outstanding defensive showing, a positive turnover margin and big games from RBs Isaiah Crowell and Duke Johnson. The Bengals haven’t been good, either, but they got a temporary lease on playoff contention when they held on last week at Denver. The Bengals rank 32nd in the NFL in rushing and in yards per game, but their defense has kept them in games and QB Andy Dalton knows to look for WR A.J. Green in the crucial moments. The Bengals built an early lead in the first meeting, then their pass rushers teed off on Kizer. The Browns must keep the Bengals on their heels to avoid a repeat.

Bills (5-5) at Chiefs (6-4)

TV: Sunday, 1, CBS (Greg Gumbel, Trent Green, Jamie Erdahl)

The matchup: Bills coach Sean McDermott’s gamble to replace veteran QB Tyrod Taylor with rookie Nathan Peterman last week was a disaster as Peterman threw five first-half interceptions in a 54-24 road loss to the Chargers. Taylor replaced him in the second half and ran and passed for TDs as the Bills scored 17 points, but he also had a costly fumble that was returned for a score. Chiefs QB Alex Smith entered the game with one interception but was picked off twice in a 12-9 overtime loss to the New York Giants. The Chiefs’ only points came on field goals by K Harrison Butker. After averaging 155 yards from scrimmage in his first five games, RB Kareem Hunt has been held to 86.6 yards in his last five games. He has no TDs in the last seven games after scoring six in his first three. Kansas City is averaging 19.6 points over the last five games after averaging 32.8 in its first five. The Chiefs need to stop settling for field goals.

Seahawks (6-4) at 49ers (1-9)

TV: Sunday, 4:05, Fox (Kenny Albert, Ronde Barber, Kristina Pink)

The matchup: The Seahawks haven’t looked like world-beaters but have done enough to stay in the hunt for a division title. The offense continues to muddle around in mediocrity, while the defense has done its part to give QB Russell Wilson a chance to rally late, though the team lost to Atlanta when a 52-yard field goal attempt fell short. Playing without injured CB Richard Sherman and S Kam Chancellor should continue to be a challenge. The huge question for the 49ers coming out of the bye week is who will start at quarterback, as San Francisco didn’t acquire former Patriot Jimmy Garoppolo just to have him watch rookie C.J. Beathard struggle. The Niners gave Seattle a surprisingly close game in Seattle this season, so there is hope the 49ers can pull off the upset. But San Francisco hasn’t beaten Seattle since 2013, so don’t bet on it. Long a strength. the Seahawks’ run defense has had some issues in 2017. Allowing RB Carlos Hyde to bust out for 124 yards in the first meeting was one of the low points.

Saints (8-2) at Rams (7-3)

TV: Sunday, 4:25, Fox (Jim Nantz, Tony Romo, Tracy Wolfson)

The matchup: Coming off an escape against Washington last week, the Saints bring an eight-game winning streak into a game that could be an offensive shootout. QB Drew Brees continues to play at an elite level, while the emergence of RB Alvin Kamara and the running game have made the biggest difference since Week 2. Injuries on defense could end up being a factor, but the Saints would probably have a hard time slowing down the Rams even when healthy. The Saints are likely to try to follow Minnesota’s Week 11 game plan, which relied on some well-timed blitzing and big plays on third down to silence the Rams over the final 50 minutes. On defense, L.A. can’t afford another game without CB Kayvon Webster (concussion), as backup Dominique Hatfield got picked on a lot in Week 11. For all of L.A.’s high-flying passes, the most effective part of its attack has been QB Jared Goff’s dump-offs to RB Todd Gurley. Saints linebackers have to know where he is and close fast.

Jaguars (7-3) at Cardinals (4-6)

TV: Sunday, 4:25, CBS (Spero Dedes, Adam Archuleta)

The matchup: The Jaguars racked up five sacks, five turnovers and one offensive touchdown in a 19-7 win in Cleveland. RB Leonard Fournette battled through an ankle injury to rush for 111 yards on 28 carries, and QB Blake Bortles avoided interceptions for the third time in his last four games. Jacksonville is leading its division after 10 games for the first time since 1999. Down to third-string QB Blaine Gabbert, the Cardinals fell to 2-4 on the road with a 31-21 loss in Houston. Gabbert threw three TD passes but was plagued by receiver drops and tipped passes, one of which was intercepted. The Cardinals will play at home for the next three games, hoping to revive their playoff hopes before it’s too late. The Arizona pass rush was neutralized by a pedestrian Texans O-line, and sack artist LB Chandler Jones was very quiet. The Cardinals must put pressure on Bortles to keep the Jags one-dimensional on the ground.

Broncos (3-7) at Raiders (4-6)

TV: Sunday, 4:25, CBS (Kevin Harlan, Rich Gannon)

The matchup: After scoring 66 points while winning their first two games, the bottom has fallen out for the Broncos. The 20-17 loss to Cincinnati was the Broncos’ sixth in a row, and in the eight games since Week 2 they have averaged 14.6 points per game. Denver fired offensive coordinator Mike McCoy on Nov. 20 and replaced him with QBs coach Bill Musgrave. Not much pass defense and not much offense has been the story of Oakland’s season. After winning their first two games by a combined score of 71-36, the Raiders are 2-6 and in those losses have averaged 12.5 points a game. Denver wanted to run the ball this season, but it’s not happening. RB C.J. Anderson had 37 yards against Cincinnati and Devontae Booker had 44 yards. Raiders RB Marshawn Lynch hasn’t done as much as the Raiders hoped, but he had 67 yards on 11 attempts against the Patriots. Commitment to the run dissipates when a team is behind.

Packers (5-5) at Steelers (8-2)

TV: Sunday, 8:25, NBC (Al Michaels, Cris Collinsworth, Michel Tafoya)

The matchup: In a 23-0 loss to the Baltimore Ravens at home, an already injury-riddled club losing two more indispensable players: OLB Clay Matthews (groin) and NT Kenny Clark (ankle). However the worst news was QB Brett Hundley’s performance – three interceptions and six sacks taken — contributing to a loss that dropped the Packers to three games behind the division-leading Vikings. The Packers suffered their third shutout since 1992 and first since Week 11 of 2006, a span of 175 regular-season games. Pittsburgh’s pass defense notched four interceptions and five sacks without CB Joe Haden (broken leg) and S Mike Mitchell (ankle). Dominant performances by Ben Roethlisberger and Antonio Brown for an offense looking to lean less on the NFL’s leader in touches, Le’Veon Bell, may signal a conference heavyweight beginning to peak.

Texans (4-6) vs. Ravens (5-5)

TV: Monday, 8:30, ESPN (Sean McDonough, Jon Gruden, Lisa Salters)

The matchup: The loss of Texans QB Deshaun Watson in recent weeks derailed a promising season, and now a banged-up defense is left to do too much. QB Tom Savage has been awful at times and OK at others, but the Texans’ margin for error is slim. Defenses know most of Savage’s throws are going to WR DeAndre Hopkins, and to keep defenses honest the Texans need production in the run game from RB Lamar Miller. Despite being hit hard by injuries and searching for consistency through the first half of the season, the Ravens are positioned for a playoff run. The defense will lead the way and it looks to feast on another backup quarterback this week after shutting out Brett Hundley and the Packers on the road last week. It was their third shutout this season, making them the fifth team in the last 30 years to record three or more shutouts.

Contributing: Brian Allee-Walsh, Zac Jackson, Jordan Godwin, Scott Pitoniak, Arthur Arkush, Andy Friedlander, Scott Johnson, Howard Balzer.

NFL Roundup: Tom Brady, Patriots dominate Raiders 33-8 in Mexico City

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(PhatzRadio Sports / AP)   —   MEXICO CITY – Tom Brady felt right at home in his first appearance in Mexico by throwing for 339 yards and three touchdowns, to the delight of an adoring crowd, in the New England Patriots’ 33-8 victory over the Oakland Raiders on Sunday.

Brady completed his first 12 passes and picked apart Oakland’s suspect defense to chants of “Brady! Brady!” from an amped-up crowd at Azteca Stadium. The large contingent of Patriots fans in the well-divided crowd for a Raiders “home” game had plenty to cheer about as New England (8-2) dominated from start to finish.

After winning their debut trip to Mexico City last year against Houston, the Raiders (4-6) were completely overmatched in their return. The offense failed to score until Derek Carr threw a TD pass to Amari Cooper in the fourth quarter with Oakland trailing by 30 points.

The defense got victimized by short passes by Brady and then beaten on a 64-yard TD to Brandin Cooks on the third play of the second half that gave New England a 24-0 lead.

Eagles 37, Cowboys 9

ARLINGTON, Texas – Carson Wentz threw for two touchdowns and three 2-point conversions after Philadelphia lost kicker Jake Elliott to a head injury, and the Eagles all but wrapped up the NFC East with the victory over Dallas.

The Eagles (9-1) outscored the Cowboys 30-0 in the second half while extending their winning streak to eight games, their longest since 2003-04 and tied with New Orleans for the best current run in the NFL.

Philadelphia leads the second-place and defending division champion Cowboys (5-5) by four games with six to play after handing Dallas its worst home loss at 8-year-old AT&T Stadium.

Dallas’ Dak Prescott threw a career-high three interceptions and lost a fumble that was returned for a touchdown in his second straight loss without star running back Ezekiel Elliott, serving a six-game suspension for alleged domestic violence.

Jake Elliott left the game after missing a 34-yard field goal late in the first quarter.

Saints 34, Redskins 31 (OT)

NEW ORLEANS – New Orleans extended its winning streak to eight games with an unlikely comeback, erasing a 15-point deficit inside the final six minutes or regulation and kicking a short field goal in overtime to defeat Washington.

Mark Ingram capped a 131-yard rushing performance with gains of 20 and 31 yards on back-to-back carries in overtime to set up Wil Lutz’s winning 28-yard kick.

Drew Brees passed for 385 yards and two touchdowns, going 11 of 11 for 164 yards and his only two touchdowns on New Orleans’ final two possessions of regulation. His first TD went to tight end Josh Hill with 2:53 to go, and the last to Alvin Kamara with 1:05 left.

The Saints (8-2) set up their final drive by stopping Samaje Perine on third-and-1 at the two-minute warning when a first down would have allowed Washington (4-6) to run out the clock.

After Kamara corralled a bobble while running between two converging defenders to score from 18 yards, he took a pitch on a misdirection play to the left side and easily reached the end zone for a 2-point conversion as the Superdome crowd – at least those who hadn’t left early – went wild.

Washington managed to get into winning field-goal range in the final minute of regulation, only to be pushed back by a fluky grounding penalty that appeared to result from Kirk Cousins’ miscommunication with a receiver, followed by a sack as time expired.

The Redskins also received the ball first in overtime, but the Saints’ hobbled defense, which gave up more yards than in any game during its winning streak, rallied to force a quick punt and Ingram did the rest.

Cousins passed for 322 yards and three touchdowns.

Giants 12, Chiefs 9 (OT)

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Roger Lewis Jr. made a spectacular catch to set up the winning 23-yard yard goal by Aldrick Rosas in overtime and the Giants responded from weeks of adversity to beat the AFC West-leading Chiefs on a blustery, cold day.

The win snapped a three-game losing streak for the Giants (2-8) and sent the Chiefs (6-4) to their fourth loss in five games.

The winning kick came two plays after Lewis was yanked to the ground on a deep pass from Eli Manning, but still caught the ball while flat on his back for a 34-yard completion on a fourth-down heave. Had he not caught it, flags flew for pass interference.

It was an unexpected was for a team that came into the game in turmoil, with questions about the future of coach Ben McAdoo and many wondering whether the Giants had quit in one-sided losses to the Rams and then the winless 49ers in the past two weeks.

Few expected them to beat the Chiefs, especially with Andy Reid’s record coming off a bye week. He was 16-2.

The Giants not only won, they intercepted Alex Smith twice, setting up their first nine points.

With one time out, Smith drove the Chiefs 69 yards in nine plays, the big shot a 32-yard pass to tight end Travis Kelce. Harrison Butker tied the game with a 23-yard field goal – his third short one – with :01 left in regulation.

Vikings 24, Rams 7

MINNEAPOLIS – Latavius Murray rushed for 95 yards and two touchdowns, Adam Thielen turned a short catch into a 65-yard score and the Vikings smothered the NFL’s highest-scoring offense.

Case Keenum completed 27 of 38 passes for 280 yards and no turnovers against the team that benched him last season for No. 1 overall draft pick Jared Goff. He also guided the Vikings (8-2) to their sixth straight victory in a matchup of division leaders.

Minnesota’s defense started the second half by forcing four punts in a row by the Rams (7-3), whose four-game winning streak in which they scored 144 points was finished in convincing fashion. The Rams led the league entering the weekend with a third-down conversion rate of 46.7 percent, but were just 3 for 11 against the Vikings.

The Los Angeles defense was trampled in the second half for 288 yards, and Keenum went without a sack for the sixth game this season. Thielen handed him the longest touchdown pass of his career by turning a simple curl route early in the fourth quarter into a game-breaking score after spinning past Rams cornerback Dominique Hatfield.

Injuries took two of their top three cornerbacks out of the game for the second half.

Thielen finished with 123 yards on six receptions, giving him 916 yards this season. The only player in Vikings history to reach 900 yards receiving by the 10-game mark was Randy Moss, who did it in 2000 and 2003.

Ravens 23, Packers 0

GREEN BAY, Wis. – The Ravens forced five turnovers in their third shutout of the season. Baltimore last accomplished the feat when the Ray Lewis-led defense had four shutouts for the Super Bowl-winning team in 2000.

Jimmy Smith, Eric Weddle and Marlon Humphrey each picked off passes for Baltimore (5-5), which led the NFL in interceptions entering the weekend. But a problematic offense couldn’t generate a touchdown drive until Joe Flacco’s perfect deep ball to Mike Wallace over two defenders for a 13-point lead nearly two minutes into the third quarter. Flacco threw for 183 yards, going 22 of 28 with an interception.

His lone touchdown pass was still enough of a cushion against a Packers team struggling without two-time MVP quarterback Aaron Rodgers, out with a broken collarbone.

The Packers (5-5) were last shut out on Nov. 19, 2006, when then-starter Brett Favre left with an elbow injury in the first half of a 35-0 loss to New England. Rodgers, then in his second year in the league, finished off that loss in relief.

Rodgers’ replacement this year, Brett Hundley, didn’t fare any better.

He was 21 of 36 for 239 yards. But he threw interceptions on the Packers’ first two series. On the third drive, backup running back Devante Mays fumbled on his first carry of the season.

Chargers 54, Bills 24

CARSON, Calif. – Casey Hayward made two of the Chargers’ five interceptions during a horrific first half by Buffalo rookie quarterback Nathan Peterman, and Los Angeles cruised over the slumping Bills.

Korey Toomer returned Peterman’s first interception 59 yards for a touchdown on Buffalo’s opening drive, the rookie threw two more interceptions in the first quarter and two additional picks in the second.

Peterman was pulled from his first NFL start with a 37-7 halftime deficit after just 14 pass attempts for the Bills (5-5), who lost their third straight.

Buffalo benched Tyrod Taylor and promoted the fifth-round pick from Pitt earlier this week despite being in playoff position. Coach Sean McDermott replaced Peterman with Taylor in the second half, and the veteran went 15 of 25 for 158 yards, throwing one TD pass and rushing for another score.

The Chargers (4-6) thoroughly capitalized on Peterman’s mistakes, putting up a 27-point second quarter and their highest-scoring performance in Philip Rivers’ 195 consecutive starts since 2006. Los Angeles set a franchise record for points in a first half during the Bills’ worst defensive half since 1977, and the Chargers posted a resounding win for coach Anthony Lynn, who finished last season as Bills interim coach.

Bengals 20, Broncos 17

DENVER – Andy Dalton threw three touchdown passes in Cincinnati’s win over the Broncos, their first win in Denver since 1975 when franchise founder Paul Brown was their head coach.

That snapped the Bengals’ 10-game losing streak in Denver and sent the Broncos (3-7) to their sixth straight loss, their longest skid in 27 years.

Trailing by a field goal with 1:52 left, the Broncos went three-and-out with Brock Osweiler taking a sack and then firing incomplete to Emmanuel Sanders on fourth-and-4 from his 26.

The Bengals (4-6) took a 13-7 lead into the locker room with Dalton’s TD throws of 1 yard to Tyler Kroft and 29 yards to Alex Erickson. The first was set up by cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick’s 101-yard interception return and fumble recovery just shy of the opposite end zone after fumbling at the Broncos 15-yard line.

Lions 27, Bears 24

CHICAGO – Matthew Stafford threw for 299 yards and two touchdowns, Matt Prater kicked a 52-yard field goal with 1:35 remaining.

Detroit (6-4) took the lead after Tarik Cohen had tied it for Chicago (3-7) with a 15-yard touchdown run. The Lions escaped with their third straight win when the Bears’ Connor Barth was wide right on a 46-yarder in the closing seconds.

Stafford completed 21 of 31 passes. Marvin Jones Jr. had four receptions for 85 yards and a TD.

DJ Hayden ran back a fumbled snap for a touchdown to give Detroit seven return TDs this season, tying a team record. And the Lions beat the Bears for the eighth time in nine games.

Chicago dropped its third straight even though Jordan Howard ran for 125 yards and a touchdown. Mitchell Trubisky faded after a strong start, throwing for 179 yards and a TD.

Jaguars 19, Browns 7

CLEVELAND – Blake Bortles threw a touchdown pass and Jacksonville linebacker Telvin Smith recovered a fumble for a TD with 1:14 remaining as the Jaguars won their fourth straight and moved into sole possession of first place in the AFC South.

Jacksonville’s top-ranked defense forced five turnovers, two in the final two minutes.

The Jaguars (7-3) built a 10-0 lead and turned things over to their “Sacksonville” defense. The Jaguars intercepted rookie DeShone Kizer twice, had five sacks and blanked the Browns (0-10) in the second half.

Cleveland’s last hopes ended when Yannick Ngakoue sacked Kizer and knocked the ball into the end zone, where Smith recovered. Earlier, Ngakoue and Calais Campbell combined to sack Kizer, who fumbled as he fell and it was recovered near midfield by Dante Fowler with 1:48 left.

With the win, Jacksonville is leading its division after 10 games for the first time since 1999, when the Jags were atop the AFC Central at 9-1.

Buccaneers 30, Dolphins 20

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. – Ryan Fitzpatrick threw for 275 yards and two touchdowns, Patrick Murray kicked a 35-yard field goal with 4 seconds remaining and Tampa Bay snapped a six-game road slide by topping the penalty-prone Dolphins.

O.J. Howard and DeSean Jackson caught those scoring throws for the Buccaneers, who outscored Miami 17-0 in the second quarter.

They also stuffed three straight 1-yard-to-go runs by the Dolphins at the Tampa Bay 34 in the fourth quarter, forcing a turnover on downs on a day when Miami had more mistakes than points.

Miami (4-6) tied the game at 20 on a 61-yard pass from Matt Moore to Kenny Stills with 3 minutes left. Fitzpatrick coolly moved the Buccaneers 58 yards on the ensuing drive, and Murray delivered what essentially was the winner.

Adarius Glanton got a bonus touchdown for Tampa Bay (4-6) on the final play, when the Dolphins’ lateral-filled last-ditch attempt at a kickoff return turned into a Bucs score.

Jay Cutler threw three first-half interceptions and didn’t play in the second half because of what the Dolphins said was diagnosed as a concussion.

Texans 31, Cardinals 21

HOUSTON – Rookie D’Onta Foreman ran for 65 yards and two fourth-quarter touchdowns before being carted off the field with an ankle injury to help the Houston Texans snap a three-game skid.

The Texans (4-6) went on top when Foreman scored his first career touchdown on a 3-yard run early in the fourth quarter. The Cardinals were stopped for a loss on a fourth-and-1 later in the fourth. Foreman dashed 34 yards on the next play to push the lead to 31-21 with about six minutes left.

Foreman was injured on the play, falling to the ground in the end zone. He was looked at on the field for a few minutes before he was helped to the cart and taken off the field as the crowd chanted: “Foreman, Foreman.”

Blaine Gabbert threw for 257 yards and a career-high three touchdowns in his first start of the season with Drew Stanton dealing with a sprained knee and Carson Palmer out for the season with a broken arm. But Gabbert threw interceptions on consecutive drives in the fourth quarter to seal Arizona’s fate.

The Texans won despite two turnovers by Tom Savage, who has lost six fumbles and thrown three interceptions in four starts this season. He finished 22 of 32 for 230 yards and two touchdowns in his third start since Deshaun Watson was injured.

Rookie Ricky Seals-Jones, who didn’t have a catch entering Sunday, finished with 54 yards receiving and two touchdowns for the Cardinals (4-6).

NFL Overreaction: Cowboys can’t make playoffs without Zeke

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(PhatzRadio Sports / AP)   —   No Zeke means no playoffs for the Dallas Cowboys.

Without Ezekiel Elliott, who began serving a six-game suspension for allegations of domestic abuse, the Cowboys (5-4) couldn’t do anything on offense in a 27-7 loss to the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday.

Elliott had four 100-yard games and seven touchdowns rushing in eight games, and the Cowboys averaged 28.3 points with him in the lineup. Now, they’re finished.

Except the problem wasn’t the run game.

Alfred Morris had 53 yards rushing on 11 carries against Atlanta while Dak Prescott scrambled for 42. The issue was protecting Prescott in the pocket. Adrian Clayborn sacked him six times and forced two fumbles.

The player the Cowboys need more than Elliott is four-time Pro Bowl left tackle Tyron Smith.

If Smith returns, Dallas has enough offense to make a run at the playoffs.

Here are more overreactions following Week 10:

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OVERREACTION: The Browns (0-9) are making progress. They had a 10-point lead for the first time this season in a 38-24 loss at Detroit.

REALISTIC REACTION: Might be the worst team ever.

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OVERREACTION: Richard Sherman’s injury will convince the NFL to eliminate Thursday games.

REALISTIC REACTION: Money talks. Television contracts bring in a lot of revenue and a Thursday night game is attractive.

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OVERREACTION: The Saints (7-2) are unstoppable now that they have a potent rushing attack — six rushing TDs — to complement Drew Brees.

REALISTIC REACTION: Buffalo’s defense also allowed 194 yards on the ground and three TDs against the Jets in their previous game.

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OVERREACTION: Jared Goff is the NFL’s MVP.

REALISTIC REACTION: Goff will be there at the end, especially if the Rams (7-2) earn the No. 1 seed, but right now the 2016 No. 1 overall pick is behind the guy picked after him: Carson Wentz.

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OVERREACTION: The Falcons (5-4) are back.

REALISTIC REACTION: It was a must-win against the Cowboys and they got it. But their schedule is tough. Five of the final seven games are against teams currently 6-3 or 7-2.

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OVERREACTION: The 49ers are the best 1-9 in NFL history.

REALISTIC REACTION: If true — how do you even determine it? — they’re still 1-9.

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OVERREACTION: Adam Thielen is the best undrafted receiver in the NFL.

REALISTIC REACTION: Doug Baldwin wasn’t drafted either. He’s been real good for a few years.

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OVERREACTION: Blake Bortles will cost the Jaguars (6-3) a playoff berth.

REALISTIC REACTION: Jacksonville’s defense is dominant enough to overcome Bortles’ deficiencies. Plus they have Leonard Fournette.

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OVERREACTION: Brock Osweiler isn’t the answer for the Broncos (3-6).

REALISTIC REACTION: Osweiler isn’t the reason Denver has surrendered 92 points in the last two games. Defense is the problem and special teams were awful against the Patriots.

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FANTASY PLAYS: Players to start and bench for Week 11

There’s one last bye week to contend with as we head into the home stretch of the fantasy football season. Going forward, concentrate on building a deep roster that will guide you through the fantasy playoffs.

START ‘EM

Quarterback

— Ryan Fitzpatrick, Tampa Bay at Miami

We’re going to give Fitzpatrick another chance to prove he’s worthy of being a QB streamer. He’ll manage an offense whose passing play percentage is the fourth highest in the league. The Dolphins have given up 40 or more points in two of their last three games. Fitzpatrick will also have WR Mike Evans back.

— Blake Bortles, Jacksonville at Cleveland

Bortles has scored more than 16 fantasy points each of the last three weeks — consistent, yet modest numbers. If you need a Week 11 streamer, Bortles faces the Browns, who’ve allowed the second most passing TDs and the seventh most fantasy points per game to QBs.

Running back

— Tevin Coleman, Atlanta at Seattle

With Devonta Freeman in the concussion protocol and unlikely to play, Coleman will be the Falcons’ primary Week 11 back. He has a tough matchup, but volume and the fact that the Seahawks have given up four TDs to RBs over the past three weeks could help him have a productive day.

— Jamaal Williams, Green Bay vs. Baltimore

With Aaron Jones out and Ty Montgomery limited, Williams will likely be the Packers featured back. The injury to QB Aaron Rodgers has caused the Packers to run the ball more and that should translate into more opportunities for Williams. Although his 2017 statistics may seem pedestrian, according to Pro Football Focus he forced seven missed tackles in Week 10.

Wide receiver

— Kenny Stills, Miami vs. Tampa Bay

Stills has scored double digit fantasy points in points per reception (PPR) scoring formats in four of his last five games. Stills played the most snaps of any Dolphin receiver in Week 10, and faces a Bucs team that’s given up the second most fantasy points per game (FPPG) to WRs.

— JuJu Smith-Schuster, Pittsburgh vs. Tennessee

Smith-Schuster has seen the second most red zone targets among Steelers WRs, and has scored TDs in three straight games. The Titans have given up the second most TDs to WRs (12).

Tight end

— Tyler Kroft, Cincinnati at Denver

The Broncos have given up the second most FPPG as well as TDs in four of their last five games to TEs. Kroft is averaging just under five targets in his last seven games.

—Marcedes Lewis, Jacksonville at Cleveland

With WR Allen Hurns expected to be inactive, Lewis may see more targets against the Browns, who’ve given up the most receptions and third most FPPG to TEs.

SIT ‘EM

Quarterback

— Dak Prescott, Dallas vs. Philadelphia

Ezekiel Elliott having to serve his suspension doesn’t only hurt the Cowboys’ running game. Elliott is a great blocker who played a big part in helping Dallas’ offensive line protect QB Dak Prescott. His and LT Tyron Smith’s absence due to a groin injury were a big part of why Prescott was sacked eight times in Week 10. Elliott will miss Week 11 but there’s also a chance that Smith may miss his second straight game. Prescott was constantly under pressure last week and only threw for 176 yards. If his offensive line continues to falter, he’s likely to have another frustrating week.

— Marcus Mariota, Tennessee at Pittsburgh

The Steelers have allowed the third fewest FPPG to QBs as well as the fourth fewest rushing yards to the position. Mariota has averaged almost five fewer fantasy points on the road (12.5) compared to when he plays at home (17.1).

Running back

— DeMarco Murray, Tennessee vs. Pittsburgh

Murray has averaged 3 yards per carry (YPC) over his past five games, and has had just one 100 yard plus rushing game so far this season. The Steelers have given up 1.8 YPC to RBs over the past month.

— Dallas Cowboys backfield, Dallas vs. Philadelphia

Based on Week 10, while Ezekiel Elliott serves his suspension, Alfred Morris will be the Cowboys’ primary back, with Rod Smith taking over in pass catching situations. Darren McFadden only played one snap. It doesn’t matter which Cowboys RB gets the most playing time this week. All should be faded. The Eagles have given up 3.6 YPC and 66.4 rushing yards per game this season.

Wide receiver

— Kelvin Benjamin, Buffalo at LA Chargers

Although Benjamin’s target share in Week 10 suggests he’s the Bills’ primary receiver, they are still a run first team and now have a rookie QB at the helm. He’s got a tough matchup against an excellent Chargers secondary led by Casey Hayward and Trevor Williams. The Chargers have given up the fifth fewest FPPG to WRs over the past month.

— Jamison Crowder, Washington at New Orleans

Although he’s still likely to be highly targeted, Crowder will be challenged by the Saints, who’ve given up the fewest FPPG to WRs over the past four weeks. The Saints have been particularly good at defending passes over the middle, and that could especially hurt Crowder, who plays out of the slot.

Tight end

— Jared Cook, New England at Oakland

The Patriots have given up less than four FPPG and zero TDs to TEs in their last three games.

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This column was provided to The Associated Press by the Fantasy Sports Network, http://FNTSY.com

For more NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP_NFL

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Follow Rob Maaddi on Twitter: https://twitter.com/AP_RobMaaddi

NFL Today: What we learned from Week 10 in the NFL

SCOREBOARD

Monday, Nov. 13

Miami at Carolina, 8:30 p.m. EST, ESPN. The Dolphins (4-4) are averaging a league-low 14.5 points per game, but Jay Cutler returned last week from cracked ribs and had his best performance with Miami by completing a career-high 81 percent of passes (34 of 42) for 311 yards with three touchdowns against Oakland. The Panthers (6-3) try to keep pace with first-place New Orleans (7-2) in the NFC North. Cam Newton has been solid in five previous Monday night appearances, averaging 273.8 yards passing with 11 TDs and four INTs.

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STARS

Passing

— Jared Goff, Rams, passed for a career-high 355 yards and four touchdowns to lead Los Angeles to its fourth straight victory, 33-7 over Houston.

— Case Keenum, Vikings, threw touchdowns to four different receivers to build a big lead, and NFC North-leading Minnesota won its fifth in a row by beating Washington 38-30.

— Tom Brady, Patriots, had three TD passes and finished 25 of 34 for 266 yards in New England’s 41-16 victory at Denver.

— Matthew Stafford, Lions, threw three touchdown passes in the second half to help Detroit come back and beat winless Cleveland 38-24.

— Marcus Mariota, Titans, tossed a 7-yard touchdown pass to DeMarco Murray with 36 seconds left and Tennessee rallied to beat Cincinnati 24-20 for its fourth consecutive victory.

— C.J. Beathard, 49ers, threw for 288 yards and two touchdowns and ran for a third score to lead San Francisco to its first win of the season with a 31-21 victory over the New York Giants.

— Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers, threw two second-half touchdown passes to erase a 14-point deficit and help Pittsburgh top Indianapolis 20-17.

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Rushing

— Mark Ingram, Saints, had 131 yards rushing and scored three times in New Orleans’ 47-10 victory at Buffalo.

— DeMarco Murray, Titans, ran for two touchdowns and also caught a 7-yard TD pass with 36 seconds left to help lead Tennessee past Cincinnati 24-20.

— Alvin Kamara, Saints, ran for 106 yards and a touchdown on 12 carries and also caught five passes for 32 yards as New Orleans rolled past Buffalo 47-10.

— Isaiah Crowell, Browns, had a season-high 90 yards and a score on 16 carries in Cleveland’s 38-24 loss at Detroit.

— Carlos Hyde, 49ers, rushed for 98 yards on 17 attempts in San Francisco’s 31-21 victory over the New York Giants.

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Receiving

— Adam Thielen, Vikings, had eight catches for a season-high 166 yards in Minnesota’s 38-30 win at Washington.

— Michael Thomas, Saints, caught nine passes for 117 yards in New Orleans’ 47-10 rout of Buffalo.

— Robert Woods, Rams, finished with eight catches for 171 yards, including a career-best 94-yard TD reception, in Los Angeles’ 33-7 win over Houston.

— Austin Ekeler, Chargers, had two touchdown catches in Los Angeles’ 20-17 overtime defeat at Jacksonville.

— Sterling Shepard, Giants, caught 11 passes for 142 yards in New York’s 31-21 loss at San Francisco.

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Special Teams

— Dion Lewis, Patriots, returned a kickoff 103 yards for a touchdown to help lead New England to a 41-16 win at Denver.

— Josh Lambo, Jaguars, made a 30-yard field goal with 3:12 remaining in overtime, giving Jacksonville a 20-17 victory against the Los Angeles Chargers.

— Chris Boswell, Steelers, kicked a 33-yard field goal as time expired to give Pittsburgh a 20-17 victory at Indianapolis.

— Corey Grant, Jaguars, ran for a 56-yard touchdown on a fake punt in Jacksonville’s 20-17 overtime win against the Los Angeles Chargers.

— Greg Zuerlein, Rams, kicked four field goals in Los Angeles’ 33-7 rout of Houston.

— Corey Liuget, Chargers, blocked an extra-point attempt in the first quarter of Los Angeles’ 20-17 overtime loss at Jacksonville. It marked the first blocked PAT for the Chargers since John Parrella knocked away a kick by Kansas City’s Todd Peterson in 2001.

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Defense

— Adrian Clayborn, Falcons, had a franchise-record six sacks, forced two fumbles and recovered a fumble in Atlanta’s 27-7 win against Dallas.

— Nevin Lawson, Lions, forced a fumble, recovered it and ran it into the end zone 44 yards for a score in Detroit’s 38-24 win over Cleveland.

— Nick Perry, Packers, had three sacks to help Green Bay beat Chicago 23-16 and snap a three-game losing streak.

— Tre Boston, Chargers, had two interceptions in Los Angeles’ 20-17 overtime loss at Jacksonville.

— D.J. Swearinger, Redskins, intercepted consecutive throws by Case Keenum in Washington’s 38-30 loss to Minnesota.

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STREAKS & STATS

New Orleans rushed for 298 yards, including 131 by Mark Ingram and 106 by Alvin Kamara, and a franchise-record six touchdowns against the Bills in a 47-10 rout. The Saints are the fifth team in NFL history, including the postseason, to rush for at least 295 yards and six TDs in a single game, joining the 1940 Chicago Bears (Dec. 8, 1940, NFL championship), 1950 New York Giants (Nov. 19, 1950), 1951 Los Angeles Rams (Nov. 18, 1951) and 1957 Cleveland Browns (Nov. 24, 1957). … Tennessee rallied to beat Cincinnati 24-20 for its fourth consecutive victory, the Titans’ longest winning streak since getting five straight in 2009. … Titans kicker Ryan Succop’s NFL record streak of successful field goals inside the 50 finally ended at 56 after his first attempt, a 48-yarder in the second quarter against the Bengals. He came in having easily topped the previous league mark of 46 in a row, set by Matt Bryant of Atlanta between 2013 and 2015. It was Succop’s first miss from inside 50 yards since Sept. 21, 2014, in a loss at Cincinnati. … Tampa Bay entered its 15-10 win over the New York Jets with a league-low eight sacks. The Buccaneers nearly doubled that as six players — Robert Ayers Jr., Gerald McCoy, Kendell Beckwith, Darryl Tapp, Clinton McDonald and Will Clarke — got to Josh McCown. … The Los Angeles Rams cruised past Houston 33-7 to improve to 7-2, their best start since 2001, when they went 8-1 in St. Louis and made the Super Bowl. … New England’s 41-16 win at Denver was its 12th straight on the road. They Patriots also won a dozen consecutive road games from 2006-08. The NFL record is 18, set by the Joe Montana-led San Francisco 49ers from 1988-90.

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MILESTONES

Atlanta’s Adrian Clayborn had a career-high and franchise-record six sacks, forced two fumbles and recovered a fumble in the Falcons’ 27-7 win against Dallas. The six sacks are tied for the second most in a game, behind only Derrick Thomas’ seven in 1990, since sacks became an official statistic in 1982. … The Falcons’ Matt Ryan has 40,073 passing yards in 151 career games, reaching 40,000 in the fewest games in NFL history, surpassing the previous record held by Drew Brees (152). … New England’s Tom Brady won his 86th game as a starter in the Patriots’ 41-16 victory at Denver, breaking a tie for first in NFL history with Peyton Manning.

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SAINTS MARCHING

New Orleans defeated Buffalo 47-10 to improve to 7-2, becoming the second team since the merger in 1970 to start 0-2 and win its next seven games. The 1993 Dallas Cowboys are the only other team to accomplish that feat, and won the Super Bowl that season.

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GOFF GOES OFF

Jared Goff completed 25 of 37 passes (67.6 percent) for 355 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions for a 125.4 passer rating in the Los Angeles Rams’ 33-7 win over Houston. Goff passed for 311 yards with four touchdowns and no interceptions for a 146.8 passer rating last week, becoming the first player in franchise history to throw for at least 300 yards and three TDs with no INTs in consecutive games. Goff threw a 94-yard touchdown pass to Robert Woods, the third-longest offensive play from scrimmage in franchise history and the longest since 1964, when Bill Munson tossed a 95-yard TD pass to Bucky Pope in 1964.

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THEY COME IN BUNCHES

Adrian Clayborn set an Atlanta record with six sacks and forced a pair of fumbles to lead the Falcons past the Dallas Cowboys 27-7. He surpassed the team record of five sacks in a game, held by Chuck Smith and Hall of Famer Claude Humphrey, and matched the second-most sacks in NFL history. Derrick Thomas, Osi Umenyiora and Fred Dean are the only other players credited with six sacks in a game, while Thomas holds the league record with seven for Kansas City against the Seahawks on Nov. 11, 1990. Clayborn had more sacks in this contest than any other season except for his rookie year in 2011, when he had 7 1/2. He came into Sunday with two sacks on the season and 22 1/2 over his seven-year career.

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BRETT GETS A ‘W’

Brett Hundley threw for 212 yards and a touchdown, leading Green Bay to its first win since losing Aaron Rodgers, a 23-16 victory over the Chicago Bears that snapped a three-game losing streak. Hundley, making his third start for Rodgers, completed 18 of 25 passes — even though his hamstring tightened during the game — to help the Packers win their eighth straight at Soldier Field counting the playoffs. He also became the first Green Bay starting quarterback other than Brett Favre or Rodgers to win against the Bears since Don Majkowski on Dec. 17, 1989.

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BOSWELL BOUNCES BACK

Chris Boswell kicked a 33-yard field goal as time expired to left Pittsburgh to a 20-17 victory at Indianapolis. It was the culmination of an otherwise rugged day for Boswell, who had an extra point blocked that was nearly returned for two points by Colts safety Matthias Farley. Boswell also had a chance to give Pittsburgh the lead with a 37-yard field goal with 6:17 left, but the ball hit the right goal post and bounced off.

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CLUTCH PERFORMER

Detroit’s Matthew Stafford threw three touchdown passes, including the winning score to Eric Ebron with 10:46 remaining in the fourth quarter, in the Lions’ 38-24 win over Cleveland. The performance marked Stafford’s 30th career winning drive in the fourth quarter or overtime. Among players who made their NFL debut since 1970, Stafford has reached 30 winning drives in the fewest number of career games (118).

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ONE FOR THE AGES

Pittsburgh rookie JuJu Smith-Schuster had five catches for 97 yards with a touchdown, while Indianapolis’ Adam Vinatieri had a field goal and two extra points in the Steelers’ 20-17 win over the Colts. It marked the first time in NFL history that a player under the age of 21 (Smith-Schuster, 20 years old) and a player over the age of 40 (Vinatieri, 44 years old) each scored a point in the same game.

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GLOOMY DAYS

After falling to 0-9 with a 38-24 loss at Detroit, the Cleveland Browns are headed toward NFL infamy a year after losing their first 14 games in coach Hue Jackson’s debut season and finishing 1-15. Jackson is 1-24, a 25-game record since 1960 that is better than only Tampa Bay’s John McKay 0-25 mark. And those Bucs were a first-year expansion team.

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QUIET DEBUT

Buffalo wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin, acquired in a trade with Carolina on Oct. 31, finished with just three catches for a team-best 42 yards in the Bills’ 47-10 loss to New Orleans.

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FITZ’S REVENGE

Ryan Fitzpatrick made his first start for Tampa Bay in place of the injured Jameis Winston and got a win against his former team. Fitzpatrick, who spent the past two seasons with the New York Jets, completed 17 of 34 passes for 187 yards and was intercepted once in a 15-10 win that snapped a five-game losing streak for the Buccaneers.

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SAN FRANCISCO’S TREAT

San Francisco took a lead for the first time since Oct. 1 at Arizona when it got a field goal from Robbie Gould on the opening drive of the 49ers’ 31-21 win over the New York Giants. The five games without holding a lead tied a franchise worst, set in 1963. The 49ers also got their initial first down while holding a lead this season on a 40-yard pass from Beathard to Louis Murphy in the third quarter.

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MISSING ZEKE

Dallas started former Pro Bowler Alfred Morris at running back in place of the suspended Ezekiel Elliott, but he didn’t have much of an impact beyond a 20-yard run in the Cowboys’ 27-7 loss at Atlanta. Morris finished with 53 yards on 11 carries. Rod Smith ran three times for 14 yards, while Darren McFadden was thrown for a 2-yard loss on his lone carry. Quarterback Dak Prescott chipped in with 42 yards on six carries.

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SIDELINED

Indianapolis quarterback Jacoby Brissett was being evaluated for a head injury by team doctors even though he had cleared through the NFL’s concussion protocol late in the third quarter of the Colts’ 20-17 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers. Team officials said Brissett was initially evaluated for a concussion on the sideline twice — once with team doctors and once by the unaffiliated neurological consultant. He passed both times. Then, after the game, he developed concussion-like symptoms again and returned to the protocol. … Pittsburgh cornerback Joe Haden broke his left leg in the game. Starting safety Mike Mitchell left on a cart with an injured right ankle and did not return. … Running back Devonta Freeman was hurt on Atlanta’s second offensive play in the Falcons’ win over the Cowboys. … Dallas linebacker Sean Lee also went out in the first quarter with a hamstring injury. … New Orleans running back Daniel Lasco had feelings in his extremities after sustaining a spine injury while tackling Brandon Tate on a kickoff return six minutes into the second quarter at Buffalo. Lasco was loaded into an ambulance and transported to a Buffalo-area hospital. … Green Bay running back Ty Montgomery ran for a 37-yard touchdown in the second quarter, but sat out the second half of the win against the Bears because of a rib injury. That left the Packers without their top two running backs after Aaron Jones hurt his knee in the first quarter.

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SPEAKING

“I’m exhausted right now. I’m shot. I’m shot. … I’m living and dying on every single play with every call that we have. So after the game is over, I’m shot.” — Jacksonville coach Doug Marrone, after the Jaguars beat the Los Angeles Chargers 20-17 in overtime.

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“AC went crazy today.” — Atlanta wide receiver Julio Jones on teammate Adrian Clayborn, who set a franchise record with a career-high six sacks in the Falcons’ 27-7 win over Dallas.

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For more NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP_NFL

NFL Roundup: Minnesota Vikings roll to fifth straight win

This gallery contains 1 photo.

(PhatzRadio Sports / AP)   —-    Case Keenum threw touchdowns to four receivers to build a big lead, and NFC North-leading Minnesota won its fifth in a row, beating Washington 38-30 in Landover, Maryland.

With Teddy Bridgewater active for the first time since January 2016 after a devastating knee injury, Keenum was 21 of 29 for 304 yards and TD passes to Stefon Diggs, Adam Thielen, David Morgan and Jarius Wright. He was picked off on consecutive throws by D.J. Swearinger. Thielen had eight catches for a season-high 166 yards.

Rams 33, Texans 7

Robert Woods caught two of Jared Goff’s three touchdown passes during a dominant third quarter, and surging Los Angeles returned after a month away from home for its fourth straight victory, beating depleted Houston. After struggling to a 9-7 lead during a quiet first half for the NFL’s highest-scoring team, the Rams ran away with a series of big throws by Goff, who passed for a career-high 355 yards.

Falcons 27, Cowboys 7

Adrian Clayborn set an Atlanta record with six sacks, Matt Ryan threw a pair of short touchdown passes and the visiting Falcons romped to victory over Dallas. The Cowboys looked anemic offensively in their first game without suspended running back Ezekiel Elliott. Ryan hooked up with Justin Hardy on a 3-yard pass for Atlanta’s first offensive touchdown in the third quarter this season. Early in the fourth, Ryan put the game away for the Falcons by tossing one to Austin Hooper for a 1-yard score.

Saints 47, Bills 10

Mark Ingram scored a career-best three touchdowns and host New Orleans won its seventh straight game by plowing through a porous Buffalo defense at the Superdome. Ingram finished with 131 yards rushing. He scored twice from 3 yards and again on a 1-yard plunge. The Saints finished with 298 yards rushing and 32 first downs.

Patriots 41, Broncos 16

Tom Brady threw three touchdown passes and visiting New England matched its own AFC record with its 12th consecutive road victory, pummeling Denver. These teams have represented the AFC in the last four Super Bowls, and the Broncos were hoping a visit from their rivals would help shake them from their funk. Instead, the Broncos fizzled. They saw their losing streak reach five games, their longest skid in seven seasons, and they lost back-to-back games to the Patriots in Denver for the first time since 1966. Avoiding Von Miller all night and throwing for 266 yards on 25-of-34 passing, Brady improved to 8-9 against the Broncos, the only team he has a losing record against, and won for just the fourth time in 11 trips to Denver. His 86th regular-season road win broke a tie with Peyton Manning for most all-time.

Jags 20, Chargers 17, OT

Josh Lambo kicked a 30-yard field goal with 3:12 remaining in overtime, lifting host Jacksonville over Los Angeles in a wild game. Lambo’s kick got tipped at the line of scrimmage and still cleared the crossbar. It gave Jacksonville its first three-game winning streak since 2013.

Steelers 20, Colts 17

Ben Roethlisberger’s 32-yard completion to Antonio Brown with 35 seconds set up a 33-yard field goal from Pittsburgh’s Chris Boswell as time expired in a victory over host Indianapolis. The Steelers have won four straight overall and five in a row in the series. Pittsburgh needed two second-half TD passes from Roethlisberger to fight its way out of a 17-3 third-quarter deficit.

49ers 31, Giants 21

C.J. Beathard threw for 288 yards and two touchdowns and ran for a third score to lead San Francisco to its first win of the season, beating visiting New York.

Lions 38, Browns 24

Matthew Stafford lofted a 29-yard, tiebreaking touchdown to Eric Ebron early in the fourth quarter and host Detroit went on to beat the winless Cleveland. The Lions rallied from first- and second-half deficits to earn consecutive victories for the first time since winning the first two games this season. The Browns, led 10-0 early in the game for their first double-digit lead of the season, and were up 24-17 in the third after Deshone Kizer led two consecutive touchdown drives.

Packers 23, Bears 16

Brett Hundley threw for 212 yards and a touchdown, Nick Perry had three sacks and Green Bay snapped a three-game losing streak by winning at Chicago. Hundley, starting his third game for an injured Aaron Rodgers, threw a 17-yard touchdown to Davante Adams to make it 23-13 with 5:29 to play, and the Packers hung on to beat the Bears for the eighth time in nine games.

Titans 24, Bengals 20

Marcus Mariota tossed a 7-yard touchdown pass to DeMarco Murray with 36 seconds left, and host Tennessee rallied for its fourth consecutive victory, beating Cincinnati. Murray ran for two touchdowns, and Mariota finished with 264 yards passing.

Buccaneers 15, Jets 10

Ryan Fitzpatrick led two long scoring drives and visiting Tampa Bay limited New York to less than 200 yards of offense until late in the fourth quarter to snap a five-game losing streak.

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