Bob Donnan/USA TODAY Sports

NFL playoff push: 3 teams secure postseason berths

With three games to go, three teams have already secured their spot in the playoffs. We look at the playoff race and the big performances from Sunday.

The Carolina Panthers became the second team to clinch a playoff spot. The Arizona Cardinals did that on Thursday with their win over the Minnesota Vikings, the Panthers did it with a resounding 38-0 win over the Atlanta Falcons to remain undefeated, and the New England Patriots became the third team to secure a playoff spot in a 27-6 win over the Houston Texans on Sunday night.

The Panthers are the only team that has clinched a first-round playoff bye and they are the eighth team to start a season 13-0. Of the previous seven to start 13-0, all of them made the playoffs, five of them advanced to the Super Bowl and three of them won the Super Bowl.

The Cardinals are currently sitting with a two-game lead over the third-place Green Bay Packers in the NFC race with two other teams, the Seattle Seahawks and Vikings, at 8-5 and looking as strong possibilities to secure a playoff spot in NFC.

In the AFC, the Patriots’ win, combined with losses by the Denver Broncos and Cincinnati Bengals, moved New England from the projected No. 3 seed in the AFC to the top spot with a one-game advantage at 11-2. However, the Broncos, who lost to the Oakland Raiders, have beaten the Patriots so they would own a tiebreaker advantage over them.

Here is how the standings currently sit in both conferences:

AFC

  1. New England Patriots (11-2)
  2. Cincinnati Bengals (10-3)
  3. Denver Broncos (10-3)
  4. Indianapolis Colts (6-7)
  5. Kansas City Chiefs (8-5)
  6.  New York Jets (8-5)


Needing help:
Pittsburgh Steelers (8-5)
Oakland Raiders (6-7)
Buffalo Bills (6-7)
Houston Texans (6-7)
Miami Dolphins (5-7)
Jacksonville Jaguars (5-8)

NFC

  1. Carolina Panthers (13-0)
  2. Arizona Cardinals (11-2)
  3. Green Bay Packers (9-4)
  4. Washington Redskins (6-7)
  5. Seattle Seahawks (8-5)
  6. Minnesota Vikings (8-5)

Needing help:
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-7)
Atlanta Falcons (6-7)
Philadelphia Eagles (6-7)
New York Giants (5-7)
St. Louis Rams (5-8)
Chicago Bears (5-8)
New Orleans Saints (5-8)
Dallas Cowboys (4-9)

All other teams have been eliminated (the Giants and Dolphins play on Monday night).

Other essentials from Sunday

  • Russell Wilson is on a roll with the Seahawks. Wilson completed 71.9 percent of his passes for 292 yards, five touchdowns and no interceptions in a 35-6 win over the Baltimore Ravens. He has thrown at least three touchdowns with no interceptions in four consecutive games, tying Tom Brady (2007), Peyton Manning (2013-14) and Aaron Rodgers (2014) for the longest such streak in NFL history.
  • The Kansas City Chiefs are also on a roll. After losing five straight games, Kansas City has won seven straight. Only the 1970 Cincinnati Bengals won at least seven consecutive games after losing at least five straight games.
  • In the Chiefs’ 10-3 win over the San Diego Chargers, Alex Smith threw his first interception in the last 10 games, a streak spanning 312 pass attempts, the second-longest streak of its kind in NFL history (Brady, 358 attempts).
  • Bills QB Tyrod Taylor had his streak of passes without an interception snapped, too. Taylor threw an interception with less than 90 seconds to play in the Bills’ loss to Philadelphia, his first interception in 222 passes, the longest streak in franchise history, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
  • Saints QB Drew Brees threw for 312 yards and two touchdowns in a 24-17 win at Tampa Bay, giving him 93 career games with at least 300 yards passing, tied with Peyton Manning for the most in NFL history. Brees now has 421 touchdown passes, passing Dan Marino for fourth place in NFL history.
  • Steelers WR Antonio Brown had seven catches in a 33-20 win at Cincinnati, giving him 100 catches on the season. He is the sixth player in NFL history at least three consecutive 100-catch seasons.
  • The Pittsburgh win also gave head coach Mike Tomlin a 90-51 career record with the Steelers, making them the only franchise in NFL history to have three head coaches with at least 90 career regular-season wins, joining Chuck Noll and Bill Cowher.
  • Steelers CB William Gay returned an AJ McCarron interception 23 yards for a touchdown. That’s five straight interceptions that Gay has returned for a touchdown, the longest streak in NFL history, according to Elias.
  • Jaguars QB Blake Bortles tossed his 30th touchdown pass of the season, joining Dan Marino, Matthew Stafford and Daunte Culpepper as the only players in NFL history with at least 30 touchdowns in a season at age 23 or younger.
  • Tennessee Titans QB Marcus Mariota had a 41-yard touchdown reception, giving him touchdowns of at least 40 yards passing, rushing and receiving this year, the first player to do that since Walter Payton in 1983.
  • With five sacks of Brock Osweiler, Raiders LB Khalil Mack became only the fifth player to have nine sacks over a three-game stretch, joining Richard Dent, Reggie White, Derrick Thomas and Aldon Smith, according to Elias.


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