Super Bowl champions beat Miami Dolphins, yet slim hopes of qualification dashed by win for Baltimore Ravens.
Steelers win but end up missing out
The Baltimore Ravens and New York Jets wrapped up play-off berths on the final day of the regular season on Sunday at the expense of Super Bowl champions the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Ravens (9-7) enjoyed a 21-13 win over the Oakland Raiders (5-11) to grab one of two AFC wild-card spots and end the slim post-season hopes of the Steelers (9-7), who had earlier beaten the Miami Dolphins (7-9) 30-24.
"We're in the same position as last year where we had to win the last couple of games," said Ravens running back Willis McGahee, who ran for 167 yards and three touchdowns. "Once we get in there, we know we can do damage, and now we're in there." The Jets (9-7) clinched their post-season spot with a 37-0 victory over the play-off-bound Cincinnati Bengals (10-6) in the final game of the regular season. The victory set up a post-season rematch with the Bengals in Cincinnati on Saturday.
"This wasn't our goal to make the play-offs. Our goals are much higher," said Jets coach Rex Ryan. "We were 4-6 and we had a mission with the team. It went from impossible to improbable, back to impossible and then to inevitable." Bengals receiver Chad Ochocinco said his team would play a very different game next weekend. "We'll be fine," he said. "We'll study a lot of things we can fix, especially offensively. Next week will be a lot more serious."
Baltimore will play at New England in the other AFC wild-card game. In the NFC, there will be two rematches. The Dallas Cowboys (11-5) galloped to a 24-0 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles (11-5) to win the NFC East Division title and the two teams in Texas on Saturday. "It's kind of embarrassing," said tight end Brent Celek, who led Philadelphia with seven catches for 96 yards. "I didn't expect to come down here and play like this. We're lucky we have another opportunity to play again."
Dallas QB Tony Romo downplayed the significance of his team's win. "We haven't arrived and we haven't accomplished anything," he said. "This is a step in the process to continue to get to where we want to go. It's a positive one, definitely, but we still need to keep improving." The other NFC game will have Arizona (10-6) hosting Green Bay (11-5) - a team the Packers crushed 33-7 on Sunday as the Cardinals rested many of their starters.
"We wanted to come out here to win the game, keep our razor sharp and gain some momentum going into the play-offs," Green Bay coach Mike McCarthy said. "It didn't matter who we were playing. I understand Arizona had a different agenda. "We like the way we played the last eight weeks and it was very important for us to maximise this opportunity." The Minnesota Vikings (12-4) rolled to a 44-7 victory over the New York Giants (8-8) to join the top-seeded New Orleans Saints with NFC first-round byes.
The Saints (13-3) lost 23-10 to the Carolina Panthers (8-8), but that did not affect their play-off status. Seven AFC teams went into the final day with a chance of grabbing the conference's two wild-card berths. Defeats eliminated Denver, Jacksonville and Miami with Pittsburgh and Houston going out despite final-day wins. Denver (8-8) fell 44-24 to the Kansas City Chiefs (4-12) and Jacksonville (7-9) lost 23-17 to Cleveland (5-11).
The Houston Texans (9-7) defeated the New England Patriots (10-6) 34-27 but were eliminated by the Jets' win over the Bengals. Indianapolis (14-2), the AFC's top seeds, lost 30-7 to the Buffalo Bills (6-10) in a game that did not affect their play-off status. The Colts will have home field advantage throughout the AFC post-season. The conference's No 2 seeds San Diego (13-3) rallied for a 23-20 win over Washington (4-12) in what is likely to be Redskins coach Jim Zorn's final game in charge.
Meanwhile, Tennessee Titans running back Chris Johnson became the sixth NFL player to rush for 2,000 yards in a season when he gained 134 yards in a 17-13 win over the Seattle Seahawks. Johnson finished with 2,006 yards to claim the NFL rushing title for the season. The total is the fifth-most in a single season. He scored two touchdowns and went over 100 yards rushing for the 11th consecutive game, the NFL's second longest streak.
"Those were hard yards today," Titans coach Jeff Fisher said. "And you have to compliment him, because throughout the season he practised every single day. I think he took two days off the whole season. "That's an amazing feat." * With agencies