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NFL Playoff Picture: Panthers in, spots still open
Tom Brady and Peyton Manning clinched division titles, Cam Newton reached the postseason for the first time and a pair of all-or-nothing games loomed on the final weekend in a scrambled NFL playoff race.
“Today we felt like we were playing for everything,” Tony Romo said after his fourth-down TD pass with 1:08 left Sunday sent Dallas over Washington 24-23. “Next week will be the same thing.”
Meanwhile, all the AFC division titles got settled. Denver, New England and Cincinnati won to join Indianapolis with crowns.
Kansas City is assured of one AFC wild-card spot. Defending Super Bowl champion Baltimore, Miami and San Diego are tied at 8-7 for the other slot with even Pittsburgh at 7-8 still in it.
“You know, we’re used to going out there and playing well when we need to when the playoffs are on the line,” said Baltimore quarterback Joe Flacco, who threw two interceptions in a 41-7 loss to Brady and the Patriots.
San Francisco (10-4) can clinch a playoff spot Monday night with a win against visiting Atlanta.
Carolina (11-4) can wrap up the NFC South and a first-round bye in the playoffs with a win next Sunday at Atlanta.
“When we were 1-3 there was a lot of what-ifs, a lot of people that were jumping off the bandwagon,” Newton said. “It was a lot of finger-pointing and saying, `I told you so.’ But as a team we stuck together and didn’t veer off and had faith in each other.”
The 49ers, New Orleans and Arizona are competing for the last two NFC playoff slots.
“I really feel like it’s a team accomplishment, certainly an offensive accomplishment,” Manning said. “There’s a lot of people that played roles in this.”
Taxpayers must pay the freight for over-budget train projects
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