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Bears are in but many others still on hold for playoffs

The playoff picture in the National Football League became a little clearer after Sunday’s Week 15 games. Or did it?

The Chicago Bears joined the Los Angeles Rams and New Orleans Saints as postseason participants in the NFC by wrapping up their first NFC North championship since 2010 in a 24-17 win over Green Bay at Soldier Field.

However, Dallas and Seattle missed chances to clinch postseason berths by losing on the road. Those outcomes kept Philadelphia and Washington in the NFC East picture, and Minnesota and Carolina are still in wild-card contention.

Only Kansas City and the Los Angeles Chargers have clinched playoff berths in the AFC, and either team can win the AFC West title.

New England’s loss to Pittsburgh kept the Patriots from clinching the AFC East. Baltimore’s win over Tampa Bay kept it in the hunt in the AFC North.

Houston’s win on Saturday over the New York Jets moved it closer to the AFC South title, but Indianapolis and Tennessee stayed alive in the division with shutout wins on Sunday. The Colts, Ravens and Titans are all still in the chase for the final AFC wild-card. The runner-up in the AFC West, Kansas City or the L.A. Chargers will be the first wild card.

Game of the day

Bears 24, Packers 17

The scoop: Chicago overcame a lost fumble on a gadget play with the game tied at 14, taking the lead on a 13-yard pass from Mitch Trubisky to Trey Burton with 10:16 left. Chicago added a field goal that was set up by a 44-yard Tarik Cohen punt return. Cohen also caught a TD pass from Trubisky to make it 14-3 in the second quarter. Bears safety Eddie Jackson ended Aaron Rodgers’ NFL-record streak of consecutive passes without an interception at 402 when he picked off a pass in the end zone intended for tight end Jimmy Graham with three minutes to play. It was Chicago’s 26th interception of the season.

Why the Bears won: They sacked Rodgers five times and limited him to a long completion of 28 yards.

Leading contenders

Eagles 30, Rams 23

The scoop: Corey Graham, the former Bill from Turner-Carroll High, intercepted a Jared Goff pass and returned it 16 yards to set up what turned out to be the winning touchdown for Philadelphia. Graham’s return to the Rams’ 12 led to a 4-yard Wendell Smallwood run for a 30-13 lead. The game was tied at 13 at halftime before Philadelphia scored 17 points in the third. The first score, a 9-yard run by Smallwood, was set up by a 50-yard pass from Nick Foles to Alshon Jeffery. The Rams scored 10 points in the fourth quarter to make it a one-possession game but ran out of time. The loss dropped the Rams (11-3) a half game behind New Orleans (11-2) in the battle for the No. 1 seed in the NFC playoffs.

Why the Eagles won: They intercepted Goff twice and a muffed punt by JoJo Natson allowed them to run off valuable time in the last five minutes.

Steelers 17, Patriots 10

The scoop: Ben Roethlisberger passed for both Pittsburgh touchdowns, including a 17-yard throw to Antonio Brown which put the Steelers in front, 14-7, with 12:01 left in the second quarter. The New England touchdown came on a 63-yard pass play from Tom Brady to former Buffalo Bill Chris Hogan in the first quarter.

Why the Steelers won: They used the clock to shorten the game in the second half. New England had only four possessions after halftime, one ended with a score (field goal) and one ended with an interception.

Colts 23, Cowboys 0

The scoop: Indy snapped the Cowboys’ five-game win streak and prevented them from clinching the NFC East title in handing them their first shutout since 2003 (12-0 by New England). … Marlon Mack ran for both Indy touchdowns and Adam Vinatieri kicked three field goals in the win. Dallas had a field goal blocked, lost a fumble at the Colts’ 3, and had a pass intercepted deep in Colts territory.

Why the Colts won: Andrew Luck did not pass for any touchdowns but he completed 16 of 27 passes for 192 yards and was the main reason Indy converted 8 of 12 third downs.

On the bubble

49ers 26, Seahawks 23 (OT)

The scoop: Robbie Gould kicked his fourth field goal of the game, from 36 yards with 3:06 left in overtime to win it for the Niners, who are 4-3 at home after their second win in a row there. Russell Wilson passed to Doug Baldwin for two Seattle touchdowns in the first half. San Francisco took a 7-6 lead in the first quarter on a 97-yard kickoff return by rookie Richie James.

Why the 49ers won: Seattle coach Pete Carroll went conservative in the first half, choosing to punt from the 49ers’ 43 and 35 in a tie game.

Titans 17, Giants 0

The scoop: Derrick Henry of the Titans followed his huge four touchdown game against Jacksonville by carrying 33 times for 170 yards in the Tennessee victory. The Titans registered their first shutout since a 31-0 win over Dallas in 2000. The Giants were last shut out last Dec. 24 by Arizona, 23-0.

Why the Titans won: An Eli Manning fumble at his 14 in the
third quarter set up the second Tennessee touchdown. New York managed only 47 yards rushing on 16 attempts. Saquon Barkley was limited to 31 yards.

Vikings 41, Dolphins 17

The scoop: Miami closed what had been a 14-point deficit to 21-17 early in the third quarter on a 65-yard run by rookie Kalen Ballage. The Dolphins gained minus-5 yards in six possessions the rest of the way. Kirk Cousins passed for two Minnesota touchdowns and the Vikings had 220 yards rushing, including three touchdown runs.

Why the Vikings won: They sacked Ryan Tannehill nine times and limited him to 11 completions in 24 attempts.

Ravens 20, Buccaneers 12

The scoop: Baltimore stayed in control of the final AFC wild-card berth by pulling away from a 10-9 halftime lead. Gus Edwards ran for 104 yards, and quarterback Lamar Jackson had 95 in 18 carries as the Ravens totaled 242 yards on the ground and became the first team to rush for at least 190 yards in five consecutive games since the 1976 Pittsburgh Steelers.

Why the Ravens won: Tampa Bay, which was averaging 430.1 yards a game, managed only 241 against the Ravens.

Redskins 16, Jaguars 13

The scoop: Jacksonville’s only touchdown came on a 74-yard punt return by Dede Westbrook in the second quarter for a 10-3 lead. Josh Johnson passed for the only Washington touchdown in the second half, a 6-yard toss to tight end Jeremy Sprinkle and Dustin Hopkins kicked two of his three field goals.

Why the Redskins won: They limited the Jaguars to 11 first downs and just 192 yards total offense and sacked Cody Kessler six times.

Off the bubble

Bengals 30, Raiders 16

The scoop: There were only three touchdowns in the game as the teams combined for six field goals. Cincinnati snapped its losing streak at five games.

Why the Bengals won: Joe Mixon had another productive game. He carried 27 times for 129 yards and had touchdown runs of 1 and 15 yards.

Dog of the day

Falcons 40, Cardinals 14

The scoop: Atlanta ended its losing streak at five games. After giving up the game’s first touchdown the Falcons tied the game on a 41-yard interception return by linebacker Deion Jones, the first of 40 unanswered points.

Why the Falcons won: They had seven sacks and intercepted two passes. Atlanta ran for 215 yards to lift its season’s average to 90.7 per game.

News wire services contributed to this report.

 

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