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Saints clinch NFC top spot, Patriots, Cowboys win divisions

December 24, 2018

For a decade now, the New England Patriots have owned the AFC East.

The Patriots clinched their 10th straight division title Sunday when they beat Buffalo 24-12. They got an added bonus when Houston fell at Philadelphia 32-30 to drop out of the second seed in the conference, which New England grabbed.

The defending Super Bowl champion Eagles remained alive in the NFC wild-card chase with that win on Jake Elliott’s 35-yard field goal as time expired.

Dallas took the NFC East crown when it defeated Tampa Bay 27-20.

New Orleans secured home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs by beating Pittsburgh 31-28, dropping the Steelers into second place behind Baltimore in the AFC North.

Here’s how things look with one week remaining, plus Kansas City’s night game at Seattle. The Monday night game between Denver and Oakland has no playoff implications.

AFC

It was a double treat for the Patriots, who probably need to be home in the postseason considering they are 7-0 in Foxboro — the league’s only undefeated team in its own building — and 3-5 on the road.

“We didn’t have our best day in the passing game. But it felt good to win. At this time of year, whatever it takes to win, that’s what you’ve got to do,” Tom Brady said.

Baltimore (9-6), fresh off its victory at the Chargers on Saturday night, has a half-game lead on Pittsburgh (8-6-1), which has lost four of five. The Ravens will take the North with a home win against Cleveland next week. The Steelers host Cincinnati and need help to get into the postseason.

In the South, Houston (10-5) is leading Indianapolis and Tennessee, both 9-6. The Colts and Titans face off in Nashville next Sunday night, and the winner there will be in. The Texans host Jacksonville (5-10).

The Chiefs (11-3) and Chargers (11-4) already are in the postseason from the West. That takes up one wild card.

NFC

Dallas (9-6) grabbed the East and will host a wild-card game. If Minnesota (8-6-1) wins next week at home against North winner Chicago, it will get a wild card. Seattle (8-6) is in with a victory against Kansas City. Philadelphia (8-7) needs to beat Washington and get help.

“We’ve got a lot more work to do,” Dak Prescott said. “This is something that we set out, wanted to do way back in the offseason, and this is giving us a chance to go and get the greater goal.”

The Bears (11-4) still have a shot at a first-round bye, needing to beat the Vikings and have the West champion Rams (12-3) lose at home to San Francisco next Sunday.

New Orleans (13-2) has the league’s best mark and owns the South crown.

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