- Associated Press - Sunday, January 3, 2016

CLINCHINGS

Carolina and Denver wrapped up the No. 1 playoff seeds in each conference by winning at home on the final day of the regular season Sunday. Carolina routed Tampa Bay 38-10, while Denver held off San Diego 27-20 to win the AFC West title. … New England will be the No. 2 seed in the AFC after losing at Miami, while Arizona will have the other bye in the NFC despite getting routed 36-6 by Seattle. … Cincinnati is the No. 3 seed and will host AFC North rival Pittsburgh in a wild-card game next Saturday night, while AFC South champion Houston is the No. 4 seed and will host Kansas City, winner of 10 straight games, earlier that day. … The NFC playoff picture has Seattle, the sixth seed, at No. 3 Minnesota in the early game Sunday. Washington, which closed the season with its fourth straight win, is the fourth seed and will host the No. 5 seed, Green Bay, to finish the wild-card round. … The wins by Washington (9-7) and Houston (9-7) assured that there were no division winners with a record of .500.

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STARS

Passing

- Ryan Tannehill, Dolphins, threw for 350 yards and two touchdowns in Miami’s 20-10 victory over New England.

- Kirk Cousins, Redskins, tossed three touchdowns before leaving late in the first half, and Washington finished the regular season with a 34-23 victory over Dallas.

- Russell Wilson, Seahawks, threw three touchdown passes in Seattle’s 36-6 rout of Arizona.

- Matthew Stafford, Lions, had three TD passes to lead Detroit to a 24-20 win at Chicago.

- Kellen Moore, Cowboys, was 33 of 48 for 435 yards and three scores in a losing cause as Dallas fell to Washington 34-23.

- Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers, threw for 349 yards and three TDs, finishing 24 of 36 for 349 yards in Pittsburgh’s 28-12 loss at Cleveland.

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Rushing

- Rashad Jennings, Giants, ran for a season-high 170 yards and a touchdown on 27 carries in New York’s 35-20 loss to Philadelphia.

- Ronnie Hillman, Broncos, rushed for 117 yards and a score in Denver’s 27-20 victory over San Diego.

- Christine Michael, Seahawks, ran for 102 yards on 17 attempts in Seattle’s 36-6 win at Arizona.

- Alfred Blue, Texans, had 102 yards on 21 carries in a 30-6 victory over Jacksonville.

- Alfred Morris, Redskins, rushed for 100 yards on 19 carries in Washington’s 34-23 win at Dallas.

- Jeremy Hill, Bengals, ran for 96 yards and a TD in Cincinnati’s 24-16 win over Baltimore.

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Receiving

- Antonio Brown, Steelers, caught 13 passes for 187 yards and a touchdown in Pittsburgh’s 28-12 win at Cleveland.

- Sammy Watkins, Bills, had 11 catches for 136 yards in Buffalo’s 22-17 win over the New York Jets.

- Calvin Johnson, Lions, made 10 receptions for 137 yards and a TD to lead Detroit to a 24-20 win at Chicago.

- Zach Ertz, Eagles, caught nine passes for 152 yards in Philadelphia’s 35-30 win over the New York Giants.

- Julio Jones, Falcons, had nine catches for 149 yards in Atlanta’s 20-17 loss to New Orleans.

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Special Teams

- Phil Dawson, 49ers, kicked four field goals, including a winning 23-yarder, in San Francisco’s 19-16 win over St. Louis.

- Travis Coons, Browns, made all four of his field-goal attempts in Cleveland’s 28-12 loss to Pittsburgh.

- Kai Forbath, Saints, booted a 30-yard field goal as time expired, giving New Orleans a 20-17 win over Atlanta.

- Tyler Lockett, Seahawks, had a 66-yard punt return that set up one touchdown, and a 42-yard return to set up another in Seattle’s 36-6 rout of Arizona.

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Defense

- J.J. Watt, Texans, playing without a cast for the first time since breaking his left hand Dec. 9, had three sacks, forced a fumble and recovered another one in Houston’s 30-6 win over Jacksonville.

- Whitney Mercilus, Texans, tied a career high with 3 1/2 sacks and forced a fumble and recovered one on a day when Houston set a franchise record with eight sacks.

- Jamarca Sanford, Saints, got his first interception in five years to help New Orleans past Atlanta 20-17.

- Jerrell Freeman, Colts, returned an interception 23 yards for a touchdown in Indianapolis’ 30-24 win over Tennessee.

- Walter Thurmond, Eagles, picked up a fumble and returned it 83 yards for a score, helping Philadelphia top the New York Giants 35-30.

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MILESTONES

Washington’s Kirk Cousins broke Jay Schroeder’s 1986 franchise mark for passing yards in a season, finishing with 176 yards in the Redskins’ 34-23 win at Dallas and 4,166 for the season, just the third 4,000-yard performance in team history. Cousins also became the first Washington quarterback to throw at least one scoring pass in all 16 regular-season games. … Detroit’s Matt Prater kicked a 59-yard field goal, the longest at Soldier Field, according to STATS, in a 24-20 win at Chicago. … Chicago’s Robbie Gould finished with 33 field goals, breaking his previous club record of 32 in 2006. … The Jets’ Ryan Fitzpatrick threw a franchise-record 31 touchdown passes. … Houston’s J.J. Watt joined Reggie White as the only players in NFL history to have three 15-sack years in their first five years in the NFL. … Julio Jones had nine catches for 149 yards for Atlanta and moved to second place in the NFL single-season records for receiving yards and catches with 136 for 1,871 yards. … Delanie Walker became the first tight end in Titans history to top the 1,000-yard mark, and the ninth tight end in NFL history to catch at least 90 passes in a season. … Indianapolis’ Adam Vinatieri finished the season with 107 points, extending his NFL record of 100-point seasons to 18.

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LEAGUE LEADERS

Minnesota’s Adrian Peterson wrapped up the NFL rushing title before his Vikings even took the field against Green Bay on Sunday night. Tampa Bay’s Doug Martin finished with 1,402 yards, 16 less than Peterson entering the night game. It was Peterson’s third title. … New Orleans’ Drew Brees led the league with 4,870 yards passing, while New England’s Tom Brady had an NFL-best 36 TD passes. … Pittsburgh’s Antonio Brown and Atlanta’s Julio Jones tied for the NFL lead with 136 receptions. Jones finished with 1,871 yards, 37 more than Brown. … Seattle’s Doug Baldwin, the New York Jets’ Brandon Marshall and Jacksonville’s Allen Robinson all had 14 TD catches. Atlanta running back Devonta Freeman also finished with 14 overall TDs: 11 rushing, three receiving. … Houston’s J.J. Watt won the league’s sacks title with 17 1/2. … Cincinnati’s Reggie Nelson and Kansas City’s Marcus Peters each finished with eight interceptions. … New England kicker Stephen Gostkowski finished with a league-best 151 points.

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STREAKS & STATS

Dallas fell to Washington 34-23 on Sunday to finish 4-12, the most losses for the Cowboys since going 1-15 in 1989, the year owner and general manager Jerry Jones bought the team. … New England’s Tom Brady spent most of the first half handing off, with the Patriots running the ball on 16 of their first 18 plays in a 20-10 loss at Miami. He threw only five passes in the first half, the lowest halftime total in any game he has started, according to STATS. Brady finished 12 for 21 for a season-low 134 yards, and was held without a touchdown pass for the first time this season. … Cincinnati failed to convert a third-down play, going 0 for 9, and matched its season high with 11 penalties in a 24-16 win over Baltimore. It was the first time the Bengals won a game without converting a third-down play since 1995, when they beat Indianapolis 24-21 in OT, according to STATS. They also were 0 for 9 in that one.

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SWINGS

Four teams that missed the playoffs last season - Kansas City (11-5), Minnesota (10-5), Houston (9-7) and Washington (9-7) - advanced to the postseason this year. Since the 12-team playoff format was adopted in 1990, at least four teams have qualified for the playoffs in every season that were not in the postseason the year before.

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BIG-TIME BENGALS

Cincinnati (12-4) matched the best record in franchise history - the Bengals also won 12 games during the 1981 and 1988 seasons when they reached the Super Bowl. Cincinnati won two of its last three games after AJ McCarron took over for Andy Dalton, who broke his right thumb during a loss to Pittsburgh at Paul Brown Stadium. Dalton is scheduled for an exam Monday and is hoping to return at some point in the postseason.

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BREES THROUGH THE AIR

New Orleans’ Drew Brees passed for 323 yards in the Saints’ 20-17 win at Atlanta, his 96th career 300-yard passing game, the most in NFL history. He finished the season with 4,870 passing yards, his NFL-record sixth consecutive season - and seventh overall - with at least 4,500 yards. Brees is the first to lead the league in passing yards six times.

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ON THE MARK

Seattle’s Russell Wilson threw for three touchdowns and had no interceptions in the Seahawks’ 36-6 win at Arizona on Sunday. He has 24 touchdown passes and one interception in his past seven games and is the only player in NFL history to pass for at least 24 TDs and have one or zero interceptions in a seven-game span within a season.

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BROWN DELIVERS

Pittsburgh’s Antonio Brown had 13 catches for 187 yards and one touchdown in the Steelers’ 28-12 win at Cleveland. Brown, who led the league with 129 catches in 2014, has 265 total receptions over the past two seasons, surpassing Marvin Harrison (252 in 2001-02) for the most catches in any two-season span. Brown has four games of 185 yards receiving, the most in a single season in NFL history.

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REX’S REVENGE

A year after being fired by the Jets and taking over in Buffalo, Rex Ryan got his revenge by thwarting New York’s hopes of making the playoffs for the first time since 2010 with a 22-17 win Sunday. The Jets needed a win to clinch a postseason berth, but were eliminated with the loss and Pittsburgh’s 28-12 victory at Cleveland. Ryan won both meetings against his former team, each by the same 22-17 score.

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MR. DO-IT-ALL

Cam Newton passed for two touchdowns and rushed for two other scores in Carolina’s 38-10 win over Tampa Bay. It marked the 31st time Newton threw for a TD and ran for one in the same game, tied with Hall of Famer Steve Young for the most in NFL history. Newton reached the mark in his 78th career game, while Young played 169 games in his career. Newton finished the regular season with 35 TD passes and 10 rushing scores, the only player in NFL history with at least 30 and 10 in a single season.

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WATT’S UP

J.J. Watt played with two hands Sunday after spending the past three games with a cast over his broken left hand, and was back to his old self while leading a dominant defense that helped the Houston Texans to their first AFC South title since 2012. Watt, playing without a cast for the first time since breaking his left hand Dec. 9, had three sacks, forced a fumble and recovered another one to help the Texans beat Jacksonville 30-6. Watt joined Reggie White as the only players in NFL history to have three 15-sack years in their first five years in the NFL.

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STEPPING IN

Recently signed Josh Freeman and Ryan Lindley each threw one touchdown pass in the first half Sunday, giving the Indianapolis Colts a season-closing 30-24 victory over Tennessee. Indy (8-8) needed two wins to stay in the playoff hunt and managed to get both despite using four different quarterbacks, including two, Freeman and Lindley, who were signed Tuesday after spending the whole season out of the NFL. Freeman was 15 of 28 with 149 yards, one TD and one interception. Lindley was 6 of 10 with 58 yards and threw an 18-yard TD pass with the 13 seconds left in the first half to give the Colts a 20-14 lead.

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SIDELINED

DeAngelo Williams injured his right ankle during Pittsburgh’s playoff-clinching win at Cleveland and left the stadium wearing a boot. His status for next weekend’s wild-card game was unknown. … New York Jets defensive lineman Muhammad Wilkerson broke his right leg. … Seattle cornerback Jeremy Lane left with a rib injury. … Arizona defensive lineman Cory Redding has an ankle injury. … Safety Kyshoen Jarrett suffered a concussion and cornerback Dashaun Phillips was taken off the field on a cart for playoff-bound Washington. Jarrett was scheduled for an MRI for a neck injury. Phillips went to a hospital, where he was evaluated for a cervical stinger. Coach Jay Gruden said tests were “fine.” … Houston left tackle Duane Brown was carted off the field after injuring his right knee in the first quarter against Jacksonville. He was replaced by Chris Clark and said after the game that he didn’t yet know the severity of the injury. Texans wide receiver Nate Washington injured his hip.

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SPEAKING

“I’m just a big white guy trying to have some fun out there. I realize they’re very terrible … but I’m having some fun out there and if people don’t like it then they can do whatever sack dance they want when they get a sack in the NFL.” - Houston’s J.J. Watt, who leads the NFL with 17 1/2 sacks, after having a little fun following a sack in the third quarter when he did basically every dance that’s been hot in the past year: the “whip”, “nae nae”, “dab” and finished by running off on the “da plug” twice.

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“I assumed there was a fight or a Steelers fan was beating up a Browns fan. When I saw the towels getting out, I kind of assumed what was going on. A lot of thanks to coach (Rex) Ryan and the rest of the Bills and everybody in Buffalo. I know they’re excited about 8-8 and we’re excited they got us in.” - Pittsburgh’s Ben Roethlisberger, whose Steelers clinched a playoff berth with a 28-12 win at Cleveland combined with the Bills’ 22-17 victory over the New York Jets.

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

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