Monday, December 22, 2008
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NFL notes: Falcons make playoffs by beating Vikings

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[December 22, 2008]  (AP)  The Atlanta Falcons capped an improbable comeback from a lost season Sunday, qualifying for the playoffs as a wild-card team by upsetting the Minnesota Vikings 24-17.

CivicThe Denver Broncos, meanwhile, lost for the second straight week, falling 30-23 at home to Buffalo, while the Chargers won their third straight, beating Tampa 41-24. That sets up a final week showdown in San Diego for the AFC West title.

Those two results were part of a wild weekend that left five playoff berths still to be filled: three in the AFC and two in the NFC.

Here is how it breaks down by conference:


Tennessee (13-2) has clinched the South and is guaranteed home-field advantage throughout the playoffs after beating North champion Pittsburgh (11-4) 31-14 on Sunday. Indianapolis (11-4) clinched a wild-card berth when it beat Jacksonville on Thursday night.


But the West will come down to Sunday's game in San Diego between the Broncos (8-7) and the Chargers (7-8).

And the East is still up for grabs among Miami and New England (each 10-5) and the New York Jets (9-6). The Dolphins and Jets play at the Meadowlands next Sunday and if Miami wins, it wins the division. If the Jets win and New England wins at Buffalo, the Patriots take the title.

But if the Patriots lose and the Jets win, then the Jets are the champions.

Right now, Baltimore (10-5) leads for the second wild-card spot. If it wins at Jacksonville next Sunday, it joins Indianapolis as a wild card -- it holds the tiebreaker over the Patriots, who could become only the second 11-5 team not to make the playoffs if the Ravens and Dolphins both win.


The New York Giants (11-3 going into Sunday night's game with Carolina) have won the East and a first-round bye, and Arizona (8-7) is the champion of the West. The winner of New York's game Sunday night with Carolina clinched home-field advantage in the playoffs.

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The Panthers (11-3) also needed that win in the Meadowlands to wrap up the South.

The Falcons (10-5) have one of the wild-card spots.

Minnesota (9-6) could clinch the West if Chicago (8-6) loses Monday night at home to Green Bay. The Vikings also can clinch by beating the Giants at home next week or, if the Bears win Monday, with a loss by Chicago in Houston next week.

Dallas, which lost Saturday night to Baltimore to temporarily lose control of its playoff fate, got it back Sunday after Tampa Bay was beaten by San Diego. It needs only to win at Philadelphia (8-6-1) next Sunday to get in.

If the Eagles win and the Bucs (9-6) lose at home to Oakland and Chicago loses at least once, then Philadelphia makes it.

[Associated Press

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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