The Latest: Four teams vying for final two NFC playoff spots

Sports

Indianapolis Colts quarterback Carson Wentz (2) leaves the field after an NFL football game against the Arizona Cardinals, Saturday, Dec. 25, 2021, in Glendale, Ariz. The Colts won 22-16. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

The Latest from Week 17 of the NFL (all times EST):

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7:53 p.m.

There are four teams still in the hunt for an NFC wild-card berth.

The Packers (12-3), who host Minnesota on Sunday night, are in the playoffs along with the Buccaneers (12-4), Rams (12-4), Cardinals (11-5) and Cowboys (11-5).

The four teams in contention for the final two spots are the 49ers (9-7), Eagles (9-7), Saints (8-8) and Vikings (7-8).

If the Vikings lose at Green Bay, they’re out and the Eagles are in.

That would leave the Niners and Saints in the mix.

All San Francisco would have to do to get the final NFC wild-card berth is beat the Rams next weekend. The Saints would need to win at Atlanta and they would need the Rams to beat the Niners.

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)7:30 p.m.

The AFC playoff picture came into focus with four teams clinching postseason berths Sunday. That leaves two wild-card spots to be decided next weekend.

The day began with only the Chiefs having punched their ticket to the AFC playoffs, but their 34-31 loss to the Bengals dropped them behind the Titans for the top seed in the conference.

The Bengals’ win gave them the AFC North title and the Titans beat Miami 34-3 to secure the AFC South title. Buffalo and New England also secured playoff bids. The Bills beat Atlanta 29-15 and the Patriots clobbered the Jaguars 50-10.

The Colts, Chargers and Raiders are all 9-7 with the Colts and Chargers currently holding the wild-card spots. Also in the mix still are the Steelers (7-7-1) and Ravens (8-8), who have lost five in a row.

The Steelers host Cleveland on Monday night and are seeking their 18th consecutive season without a losing record. With one more win, the Steelers will surpass the 1957-73 Browns for the third-longest streak of seasons with a .500 or better winning percentage.

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7:15 p.m.

The Chargers’ 34-13 rout of Denver puts the Chargers in the seventh and final playoff position in the AFC and sets up a showdown next weekend at Las Vegas.

Both the Chargers and Raiders are 9-7.

The Broncos (7-9) are missing the playoffs for the sixth consecutive season despite having the second-easiest schedule in the league. They posted their fifth straight losing season.

They’ve now had as many losing seasons since 2017 as the late Hall of Famer Pat Bowlen had in his first 33 years as owner.

Broncos embattled coach Vic Fangio has gone 7-9, 5-11 and now 7-9 heading into the finale against the Kansas City Chiefs.

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7 p.m.

Referee Tony Corrente has returned to the field for the start of the fourth quarter in Seattle.

Corrente was helped off the field in Seattle by athletic trainers after dropping to one knee on the field following a play midway through the third quarter of the game between the Lions and Seahawks.

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6:48 p.m.

Referee Tony Corrente has been helped off the field in Seattle by athletic trainers after dropping to one knee on the field following a play midway through the third quarter of the game between the Lions and Seahawks.

The game was stopped with 7:34 remaining in the quarter after Corrente was down on the turf well behind the play. Medical personnel immediately rushed off both sidelines and Corrente eventually walked off the field and toward the Seahawks locker room with a Seattle trainer holding his arm.

The game was delayed for a couple of minutes and back judge Todd Prukop took over as the referee.

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6:45 p.m.

The Saints have entered the fourth quarter of what could be their third straight game without scoring a touchdown.

But they also have a 12-10 lead and a chance to win for the second time in three games.

The TD drought started in Week 15 at Tampa Bay, where New Orleans won 9-0.

Last Monday night, they fell 20-3 to Miami in a game that saw New Orleans’ roster ravaged by a COVID-19 outbreak and rookie quarterback Ian Book getting his first NFL start.

Against Carolina on Sunday, the Saints have stalled twice inside the Panthers 20, settling for field goals.

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6:43 p.m.

The Los Angeles Chargers have their first touchdown on a kick return since 2012 as Andre Roberts went 101 yards to give the Bolts a 27-6 lead over the Denver Broncos early in the fourth quarter.

After Brandon McManus kicked his second field goal, Roberts got blocks from Chris Rumph II and Jalen Guyton to set up a lane on the right side of the field. Roberts then got a double-team block from Stephen Anderson and Cole Christiansen to spring him the rest of the way.

The fourth-longest kick return in franchise history snapped a 143-game drought where the Chargers had not run one back. Michael Spurlock was the last to do it in the 2012 regular-season finale against the Raiders.

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6:05 p.m.

Rashaad Penny has rushed for 144 yards and two touchdowns in the first half as the Seattle Seahawks have a 31-7 halftime lead over the Detroit Lions.

It’s the most first-half points by Seattle since 2012 when the Seahawks scored 31 in a 50-17 win over Buffalo.

Russell Wilson also threw two TD passes to give him 20 for the season, joining Peyton Manning and Dan Marino as the only QBs with at least 20 TD passes in each of their first 10 seasons.

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6:03 p.m.

Michael Gallup is out of Dallas’ matchup of playoff-bound teams against Arizona after injuring his left knee while scoring the first touchdown for the Cowboys.

The fourth-year receiver was helped off the field following a 21-yard catch that pulled the Cowboys within 10-7 late in the first half. The Cardinals led 13-7 at halftime.

Both of the touchdown drives were helped by pass interference penalties.

The Cardinals went ahead 10-0 after a successful fake punt led to Kyler Murray’s 1-yard TD toss to Antoine Wesley on fourth down.

A pass interference call on the fake punt didn’t matter because Jonathan Ward made an improbable catch of upback Chris Banjo’s throw. Another pass interference on third down kept the drive going.

Arizona had an interception nullified by a pass interference call before the Cowboys got another first down on another interference penalty. Gallup immediately grabbed his left knee after catching the TD pass from Dak Prescott.

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5:45 p.m.

Brandon McManus nailed a career-long 61-yard field goal as the first half expired Sunday in Los Angeles.

It appeared the Broncos would trial the Chargers 17-0 at halftime after Keenan Allen’s 8-yard touchdown catch from Justin Herbert with just 14 seconds left in the second quarter.

But after a touchback, Drew Lock hit Melvin Gordon for 24 yards and Kendall Hinton for 8 at the Chargers 43. The Broncos called timeout with 2 seconds left.

McManus, who had missed all six of his career field goal attempts from 60 yards or more, cleared the crossbar by a few feet, pulling the Broncos to 17-3 at halftime.

His previous career long field goal was a 58-yarder against the Saints last season.

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5:20 p.m.

Denver’s attempt to be creative on fourth-and-goal ended up falling short in the second quarter against the Los Angeles Chargers.

Trailing 10-0, the Broncos drove to the Chargers 2-yard line and decided to go for it instead of kicking a field goal. Drew Lock handed off to Mike Boone who then flipped it to Kendall Hinton. Chargers safety Nasir Adderley hit Hinton as he passed the ball, but Lock went down to one knee to catch it at the 7.

Despite the off-balance pass, Lock had a path to the end zone, but was stopped by Joey Bosa and Chris Harris Jr. just shy of the goal line.

That play came shortly after an outstretched Noah Fant nearly reached the pylon after a catch.

Lock had a good series after missing one drive due to a shoulder injury.

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5:15 p.m.

Seattle linebacker Bobby Wagner is questionable to return after suffering a knee injury on the first defensive play of the game against Detroit.

Wagner appeared to slip and went down awkwardly trying to defend a screen pass for Jamaal Williams on the first offensive snap for the Lions.

Wagner was down on the field for a couple of minutes before walking off on his own. He appeared to try and immediate re-enter the game but was sent back to the sideline. He later walked to the Seahawks locker room with an athletic trainer.

Wagner talked this week of understanding this could potentially being his last home game with the Seahawks. He has a $20 million salary cap hit in 2022 with Seattle looking toward an offseason of change.

In Los Angeles, Broncos QB Drew Lock has returned to action after suffering a shoulder injury in the first quarter. Brett Rypien came in for a series before Lock went back into the game.

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5:10 p.m.

Wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase broke the NFL’s single-game record for most receiving yards in Cincinnati’s 34-31 win over Kansas City on Sunday.

Chase caught 11 passes for 266 yards and three touchdowns as the Bengals clinched the AFC North by sending the Ravens to their fifth consecutive loss.

That broke Jerry Butler’s record of 255 yards set for the Buffalo Bills against the New York Jets back on Sept. 23, 1979. Butler had 10 receptions and four of them were for touchdowns.

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4:55 p.m.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have kicked receiver Antonio Brown off the team after a bizarre, shirtless exit from the field before Tom Brady coolly led the Bucs on a 93-yard drive in the final minutes for a 28-24 victory over the New York Jets.

Coach Bruce Arians said after the game that Brown “is no longer a Buc.”

Brown’s mid-game meltdown came late in the third quarter with Tampa Bay trailing 24-10.

He appeared animated while talking to teammate Mike Evans when he stripped off his pads, jersey, gloves and T-shirt — tossing the gloves and T-shirt into the stands — and then walked bare-chested down the sideline and into the end zone. He then waved to fans as jogged through the end zone and into the tunnel at MetLife Stadium.

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4:45 p.m.

The Raiders moved a step closer to an AFC wild card berth with a 23-20 win at Indianapolis on Sunday.

Derek Carr directed Las Vegas to Daniel Carlson’s winning 33-yard field goal as time expired.

Rallying after an embarrassing email scandal that led to coach Jon Gruden’s resignation, the Raiders (9-7) can wrap up an improbable playoff spot with a victory over the Los Angeles Chargers next weekend.

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4:40 p.m.

Brett Rypien has replaced Drew Lock at quarterback for the Denver Broncos against the Los Angeles Chargers.

Lock suffered a right shoulder injury on a hit from Joey Bosa in the first quarter.

Lock was starting for Teddy Bridgewater, who missed his second straight game with a concussion.

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4:28 p.m.

The Kansas City Chiefs’ eight-game winning streak is over and they’ve lost the pole position in the AFC playoff race with their 34-31 loss at Cincinnati.

The Tennessee Titans are now the top seed heading into Week 18. The Titans ended Miami’s seven-game winning streak with a 34-3 win Sunday.

The Rams’ midseason acquisitions of Von Miller and Odell Beckham Jr. paid off Sunday when they came back to beat the Ravens 20-19.

OBJ scored the go-ahead TD with 57 seconds left and Miller had the game-sealing sack of QB Tyler Huntley.

Jalen Hurts was only sacked once in Philadelphia’s 20-16 victory at Washington but had a scare walking off the field.

As he was walking toward the tunnel, a railing collapsed, dumping Eagles fans on to the field. Hurts was not harmed and helped some of the fans to their feet.

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3:48 p.m.

Chicago Bears linebacker Robert Quinn has broken Hall of Famer Richard Dent’s single-season club record for sacks.

Quinn recorded his 18th sack in the fourth quarter against the New York Giants’ Mike Glennon. Dent had 17½ sacks in 1984.

Quinn now has 100½ sacks and needs just one to match his career high of 19 set with St. Louis in 2013. It’s a remarkable turnaround for a 31-year-old who had just two sacks last season — his first in Chicago.

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3:27 p.m.

Indianapolis Colts star Jonathan Taylor set the team’s single-season rushing record with a 9-yard carry midway through the third quarter against the Las Vegas Raiders.

Taylor began the day with 1,626 yards on the ground. On the record-breaking carry, he passed Edgerrin James’ 1,709 yards in 2000.

The crowd cheered when the record was shown on the videoboard, and the team then showed a video with James congratulating Taylor for the record.

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3:25 p.m.

Tim Boyle will make his second straight start at quarterback for Detroit after Jared Goff was declared inactive against the Seahawks due to a knee injury.

Goff missed last week’s loss at Atlanta on the reserve/COVID-19 list but has still been bothered by a knee injury from a couple of weeks ago.

Seattle is without running back Alex Collins who was listed as questionable with a lingering abdominal injury.

Denver is missing six defensive starters for their game in Los Angeles against the Chargers.

Cornerback Bryce Callahan, linebacker Bradley Chubb, defensive tackle Mike Purcell and linebacker Baron Browning are in COVID-19 protocols while cornerback Ronald Darby and linebacker Kenny Young are inactive due to injuries.

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3:24 p.m.

The Saints are again playing without both starting offensive tackles for a third straight week as New Orleans hosts Carolina.

Left tackle Terron Armstead, who has been struggling to overcome a knee injury, was scratched from the lineup on Sunday after being limited in practice during the week.

The offensive line also will be without right tackle Ryan Ramczyk and center Erik McCoy. Ramczyk is on the club’s COVID-19 reserve list and was sidelined by a knee injury before that. McCoy was listed as questionable on Saturday after returning to the active roster from the COVID-19 list, but ultimately was deemed not ready to play.

Similarly, the Saints elected not to activate safety Marcus Williams, who was questionable after he returned from the COVID-19 list on Saturday.

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3:22 p.m.

Add this to an already lengthy list of bizarre moments for Antonio Brown.

Late in the third quarter of the Buccaneers’ game against the New York Jets, the Tampa Bay wide receiver stripped off his pads and jersey and ran bare-chested from the field, through the end zone and into the tunnel at MetLife Stadium.

It appeared to possibly be a show of frustration by Brown, who had three catches for 26 yards. He waved to the fans as he was leaving.

Brown was talking to teammate Mike Evans on the sideline when he began taking off his jerey and pads.

There was no immediate word from the Buccaneers on what happened or why Brown left the game.— Dennis Waszak Jr. reporting from East Rutherford, New Jersey.

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2:48 p.m.

Rookie quarterback Trey Lance will make his second start of the season for the San Francisco 49ers in place of the injured Jimmy Garoppolo.

Garoppolo is inactive for San Francisco’s game against Houston after injuring his right thumb last week in a loss at Tennessee. Garoppolo was listed as doubtful after not practicing all week and will sit out the game.

Lance hasn’t thrown a pass since making his only start in a 17-10 loss at Arizona in Week 5.

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2:45 p.m.

Referee Shawn Smith sure got the attention of the fans at Nissan Stadium in Nashville trying to announce a penalty.

Smith turned on his mic and started, “ Hey! Hey! Hey! Hey!” Fans immediately responded, “Heyyy!”

The referee went on to announce that Miami cornerback Nik Needham was flagged for defensive pass interference with 5:44 left in the second quarter. The Titans finished that drive with a 21-yard touchdown run by D’Onta Foreman for a 17-3 halftime lead over the Miami Dolphins.

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2:35 p.m.

Atlanta’s Kyle Pitts has set the franchise rookie record for yards receiving and became the NFL’s second rookie tight end to top 1,000 yards receiving.

Pitts upped his season total to 1,018 yards receiving with season-high 61-yard catch and run late in the second quarter against the Buffalo Bills. He broke the team’s rookie record set by Julio Jones, who had 959 yards receiving in 2011.

Pitts also inched to within 58 yards of matching the NFL record set by Mike Ditka in 1961 for most yards receiving by a rookie tight end.

Pitts’ catch led to Mike Davis scoring on a 1-yard run to cut Buffalo’s lead to 14-12 with 1:48 left in the first half.

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2:25 p.m.

Joe Burrow has broken the single-season passing record for the Cincinnati Bengals.

In the second quarter against the Kansas City Chiefs, Burrow passed the 4,293 yards recorded by Andy Dalton in the 2013 season.

The second-year quarterback is 10 of 11 for 160 yards with two touchdown passes to Ja’Marr Chase so far.

The Chiefs lead 28-14 late in the first half.

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12:20 p.m.

Patriots quarterback Mac Jones has added another accolade to his standout rookie campaign.

His 4-yard touchdown pass to Jakobi Meyers late in the second quarter of New England’s matchup with Jacksonville was his second of the game and 20th of the season, setting a new franchise record by a rookie. Jim Plunkett notched 19 in 1971 for New England.

Jones entered the game leading all rookie quarterbacks with 3,313 passing yards and 18 touchdowns.

The Patriots lead 28-3 at halftime.

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2:15 p.m.

Mark Andrews has set Baltimore’s single-season record for yards receiving.

Andrews came into the game needing 15 yards to surpass Michael Jackson’s mark of 1,201 from 1996. He got there on his first reception of the game, an 18-yarder in the second quarter. Andrews followed that moments later with a 33-yard catch from Tyler Huntley.

That was part of a 91-yard drive that took 9 minutes off the clock and ended in a field goal that put Baltimore up 10-0 on the Los Angeles Rams. Matthew Stafford has thrown two interceptions, one of which was run back 17 yards for a touchdown by Chuck Clark.

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2:14 p.m.

Tennessee tight end MyCole Pruitt has been carted off the field with a right leg injury after being caught up in a pile.

Pruitt’s right foot was bent as he banged on the field. A cart came out quickly, and an air cast was put on Pruitt’s right leg. Titans coach Mike Vrabel was among those helping the tight end up off the field and onto the cart.

The tight end was blocking on a run by D’Onta Foreman that went for a 1-yard loss with about 6 minutes left in the second quarter.

The Titans have used 88 different players this season, most in a non-strike NFL season.

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2:05 p.m.

Buffalo’s Josh Allen is now the NFL’s first quarterback to run for six or more touchdowns in each of his first four seasons.

Allen scored of runs of 4 and 1 yard in the first quarter Sunday to give the Bills a 14-2 lead over the Atlanta Falcons.

Allen now has 31 career touchdown runs.

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