Cowboys, Patriots win division titles

NFL


Nine teams are headed to the NFL playoffs. Three spots are open. The league wouldn’t want it any other way. Welcome to the final stages of the 2018 season.

What a week. And with Monday night’s clash between the Denver Broncos and Oakland Raiders, there are only 17 regular-season contests remaining in the 2018 seasons. All four divisions have been decided in the NFC and there is only one wild-card spot remaining. In the AFC, four teams are playoff bound but only the AFC East has a champion. It’s going to be a wild seven-day span.

AFC East: They weren’t exactly sharp, but the New England Patriots wrapped up the AFC East on Sunday with a 24-12 win over the Buffalo Bills. Bill Belichick’s team is the first in NFL history to reach the postseason 10 consecutive years. Once again, the rest of the division took it on the chin. The Miami Dolphins and New York Jets both lost at home, the former to the Jacksonville Jaguars (17-7) and the latter to the Green Bay Packers. Todd Bowles’ club squandered a 35-20 lead on the way to a 44-38 overtime setback.

AFC North: The Baltimore Ravens moved into first place this week after a 22-10 Saturday night win at Los Angeles over the Chargers. That combined with the Pittsburgh Steelers’ 31-28 loss at New Orleans put John Harbaugh’s club atop the AFC North. And a victory against the Cleveland Browns at home on Sunday – 26-18 winners over the Cincinnati Bengals – and the Ravens have their first division title since 2012.

AFC South: Both the Indianapolis Colts and Tennessee Titans won this week, both over NFC East opponents, while the first-place Houston Texans fell at Philadelphia (32-30). Andrew Luck and company rallied to beat the New York Giants, 28-27, and Mike Vrabel’s club came back to defeat the Washington Redskins, 25-16. The Jaguars came up with their fifth win of the season with a 17-7 win at Miami. Despite the loss, the Texans clinched a playoff berth.

AFC West: It was a rough week for the division and barring a tie tonight between the Denver Broncos and Oakland Raiders. The Los Angeles Chargers fell at home to the resurgent Baltimore Ravens, 22-10. And on Sunday night in the Pacific Northwest, the Kansas City Chiefs fell to the Seattle Seahawks, 38-31. Still, both the Bolts and Chiefs are headed to the postseason.

NFC East: The Dallas Cowboys won the NFC East in 2014…and in 2016…and now in 2018. A team that started 3-5 this season has won six of its last seven contests, including a 27-20 win on Sunday vs. the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Philadelphia Eagles got a field goal from Jake Elliott on the final play of the game and edged the Houston Texans, 32-30. The defending Super Bowl champions are still alive for a playoff berth. That’s not the case for the Washington Redskins, who fell at Tennessee, 25-16. And the New York Giants squandered a 14-0 first-quarter lead at Indianapolis, 28-27.

NFC North: The Chicago Bears did just enough to get by the San Francisco 49ers, 14-9. And for the second time this season, the Minnesota Vikings held the Detroit Lions to three field goals and won by a 27-9 score. Meanwhile, the Green Bay Packers finally got their first road win of the season, rallying from a 35-20 deficit to stun the New York Jets, 44-38, in overtime.

NFC South: The New Orleans Saints have won three straight games since that Week 13 setback at Dallas. That includes a wild 31-28 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers. The victory gave Sean Payton’s team the No. 1 seed in the conference. Meanwhile, the rest of the division remains well below .500 as the Atlanta Falcons came up with a 24-10 win at Carolina and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers fell at Dallas, 27-20. The Panthers have lost seven straight games after a 6-2 start. This was an NFC South a year ago that sent three teams to the playoffs.

NFC West: After a pair of back-to-back losses to the Bears and Eagles, the Los Angeles Rams got back in the win column with a 31-9 victory over the Cardinals at Arizona. The NFC West champions will be joined in the playoffs by the Seattle Seahawks, 38-31 winners over the visiting Kansas City Chiefs. Meanwhile, the 49ers’ offense was limited to three field goals in the 14-9 home loss to the Bears.



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