The only wild-card round matchup set after Sunday’s early games on the final weekend of the NFL season will have Indianapolis at Baltimore.
“Chuck’s like a dad to me,” Reed said of the Colts coach who returned to the sideline Sunday after nearly three months of leukemia treatments. “He means a lot to me. I would have much rather seen them in the AFC championship game than the first game.”
But Reed will see him next week at Baltimore.
The Ravens (10-6) had a chance to move up to the AFC’s third seed with a win and a New England loss. But Baltimore fell at Cincinnati 23-17 as both teams played backups for much of the game.
So the AFC champion Ravens are seeded fourth, the Colts (11-5) are fifth and the Bengals (10-6) sixth. Indianapolis welcomed back Pagano with a 28-16 victory over Houston (12-4) that could damage the AFC South champion Texans' seeding.
Pagano coached the Ravens‘ secondary for three seasons and was promoted to coordinator last year. Players and coaches in Baltimore have kept in touch, offering encouragement as he fought through the cancer treatments.
“Going back to Baltimore, obviously there’s some familiarity there,” Pagano said. “We had four great years there as a family. It’s a top-notch organization, you know, really good football club. It’s a great challenge and they have a great team and they have great players all over the place.”
The Colts were 2-14 last season and chose quarterback Andrew Luck with the top selection in the draft. Luck and offensive coordinator Bruce Arians, who stepped in as interim coach with Pagano sidelined, led the turnaround.
“I love his family, and he’s one of my closest personal friends in coaching,” Harbaugh said. “What he’s been through is phenomenal, but we’re all competitors so that gets set aside.”
The defending Super Bowl champion Giants are out of contention. When Chicago beat Detroit 26-24, the Giants (9-7) were eliminated, even though they routed Philadelphia 42-7.
“It hurts,” said Eli Manning. “Each year you want to make the playoffs to give yourself an opportunity to win a championship; 9-7 last year was good enough. It wasn’t good enough this year and we knew it wouldn’t be.”
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