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Sports Cowboys now NFC champs after Giants lose

Cowboys now NFC champs after Giants lose

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The New York Giants have given teams chasing playoff berths a fresh reminder to take nobody for granted, especially division rivals.

As a result, the Dallas Cowboys’ only challenge now as the NFC East champs and the NFC’s top seed is handling the final two regular-season games before a first-round bye.

The Giants only had to beat Philadelphia on Thursday night to clinch at least a wild-card berth, yet Eli Manning was intercepted three times in a 24-19 loss . That started a big celebration by the Cowboys’ faithful with Dallas now assured of staying in Texas throughout the postseason.

Five division titles remain up for grabs with two weeks left in the season.

Dallas can help out the Giants, the only team to beat the Cowboys all season, by defeating Detroit on Monday night, which would clinch a wild-card berth for New York. The Giants also clinch a spot if Green Bay, Tampa Bay or Atlanta loses.

New England, AFC East title in hand, needs a little help to claim home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs this week. The Patriots first must beat the Jets, then wait to see if the Colts can win in Oakland. The Raiders can win the AFC West title and grab their own first-round bye by beating the Colts with Denver beating Kansas City on Sunday night.

Seattle is trying to earn the NFC’s other first-round bye. The NFC West champs must beat Arizona and also need Atlanta to lose or tie and then wait to see if Detroit can win in Dallas on Monday night.

Three division titles have been clinched, with eight playoff berths still up for grabs, and the Pittsburgh Steelers can wrap up the AFC North title by beating Baltimore on Christmas.

The Houston Texans will know before kicking off Saturday night if a victory over Cincinnati will give them their second straight AFC South championship. They need Tennessee to lose earlier Saturday to Jacksonville to avoid playing the Titans on Jan. 1 for the division title.

Atlanta heads to Carolina trying to clinch both a playoff berth and the NFC South title, needing both a win and a New Orleans victory over Tampa Bay to win the division. If they don’t get that, the Falcons could still clinch at least a wild card this weekend.

Green Bay needs a win over Minnesota and help to clinch a playoff berth Saturday. But the Packers only need to win their final two games to take the NFC North title.

The Lions are trying to hang on in that division, and they can clinch the crown Monday night if Green Bay loses to Minnesota. The Lions could have a playoff berth in hand if Washington and Tampa Bay already have lost and Atlanta wins at Carolina. If not, the Saints beating Tampa Bay can allow Detroit to clinch at least a wild-card spot with a win or a tie in Dallas.

Kansas City already squandered one chance to clinch a playoff berth. Now the Chiefs can assure themselves of at least an AFC wild card by beating Denver on Christmas night, putting the Broncos on the verge of elimination. The Chiefs also can clinch a spot if Baltimore loses earlier Sunday.

The Miami Dolphins need a win, with Denver losing or tying. The Dolphins also can leave Buffalo with a tie and clinch if Baltimore, Denver and Houston lose, or with losses by Baltimore, Denver and Tennessee.

Jameis Winston and the Buccaneers also can clinch a playoff berth by beating New Orleans combined with losses by Green Bay, Detroit and Washington.

The regular season ends Jan. 1. Here’s a closer look at the teams and scenarios:



Remaining schedule: vs. New York Jets on Saturday, at Miami on Jan. 1.

Division record: 3-1. Conference record: 9-1.

Clinched division and first-round bye. Two wins, or one win and a loss by Raiders, or two losses by Raiders, locks up No. 1 seed.


Remaining schedule: at Buffalo on Saturday, vs. New England on Jan. 1.

Division record: 3-1. Conference record: 6-4.

Winning in Buffalo combined with a Denver loss or tie Sunday night secures a wild-card spot.

Need a miracle: BUFFALO BILLS (7-7).

Eliminated: NEW YORK JETS (4-10).




Remaining schedule: vs. Baltimore on Sunday, vs. Cleveland on Jan. 1.

Division record: 3-1. Conference record: 7-3.

Having already lost at Baltimore, the Steelers get the Christmas rematch on their own field. Victory means a division title for Pittsburgh.


Remaining schedule: at Pittsburgh on Sunday, at Cincinnati on Jan. 1.

Division record: 4-0. Conference record: 7-3.

The Ravens probably must win out to win the division.





Remaining schedule: vs. Cincinnati on Saturday night, at Tennessee on Jan. 1.

Division record: 5-0. Conference record: 6-4.

Tom Savage has the starting job at quarterback after keeping the Texans tied atop the division. Houston appears headed for a division-title showdown on New Year’s Day in Tennessee.


Remaining schedule: at Jacksonville on Saturday, vs. Houston on Jan. 1.

Division record: 1-3. Conference record: 5-5.

Simple math for the Titans. Winning out means their first division title since 2008 and avoids tiebreakers they would lose to Houston. A wild-card berth remains an option with the Titans a game back of Miami, a team they beat head-to-head for that tiebreaker.


Remaining schedule: at Oakland on Saturday, vs. Jacksonville on Jan. 1.

Division record: 2-3. Conference record: 4-6.

Barely alive, needing lots of help. Lots.

Eliminated: JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS (2-12).




Remaining schedule: vs. Indianapolis on Saturday, at Denver on Jan. 1.

Division record: 3-2. Conference record: 8-2.

Control is in Oakland’s hands, as long as the Raiders finish one game ahead of the Chiefs.


Remaining schedule: vs. Denver on Sunday night, at San Diego on Jan. 1.

Division record: 4-0. Conference record: 7-3.

A series sweep of Oakland gives the Chiefs a tiebreaker, but they no longer control the division race.


Remaining schedule: at Kansas City on Sunday night, vs. Oakland on Jan. 1.

Division record: 1-3. Conference record: 5-5.

The defending Super Bowl champs face a major challenge with the league’s toughest finish.

Eliminated: SAN DIEGO CHARGERS (5-8).




Remaining schedule: vs. Detroit on Monday night, at Philadelphia on Jan. 1.

Division record: 3-2. Conference record: 8-2.

The Cowboys will have a Texas-sized home-field advantage this postseason.


Remaining schedule: at Washington on Jan. 1.

Division record: 3-2. Conference record: 7-4.

The Giants will spend their weekend off waiting to see if another team can help them out.


Remaining schedule: at Chicago on Saturday, vs. New York Giants on Jan. 1.

Division record: 3-2. Conference record: 5-5.

Win, then hope for help. Lots of help.

Eliminated: PHILADELPHIA EAGLES (6-9).




Remaining schedule: at Dallas on Monday night, vs. Green Bay on Jan. 1.

Division record: 2-2. Conference record: 7-3.

The Lions can win the division with a victory at Dallas and a Green Bay loss to Minnesota. Otherwise, they play the Packers for the NFC North crown in Week 17.


Remaining schedule: vs. Minnesota on Saturday, at Detroit on Jan. 1.

Division record: 3-1. Conference record: 6-4.

A wild card is possible, but winning out makes the Packers champions of the North.


Remaining schedule: at Green Bay on Saturday, vs. Chicago on Jan. 1.

Division record: 1-3. Conference record: 4-6.

Staring at elimination unless the Vikings can storm Lambeau Field.

Eliminated: CHICAGO BEARS (3-11).




Remaining schedule: at Carolina on Saturday, vs. New Orleans on Jan. 1.

Division record: 3-1. Conference record: 7-3.

The Falcons have their fate in their hands, though help from the Saints against Tampa Bay could help Atlanta clinch the division this weekend.


Remaining schedule: at New Orleans on Saturday, vs. Carolina on Jan. 1.

Division record: 3-1. Conference record: 6-4.

The Bucs are pushing Atlanta in the division and poised to grab the second wild-card spot with some help in the NFC North.

Need a miracle: NEW ORLEANS SAINTS (6-8), CAROLINA PANTHERS (6-8).




Remaining schedule: vs. Arizona on Saturday, at San Francisco on Jan. 1.

Division record: 2-1-1. Conference record: 5-4-1.

First-round bye is this close for the Seahawks.



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