Three NFC playoff spots remain up for grabs

With one week to go in the NFL season, only the Atlanta Falcons know exactly where they stand in the playoff picture -- at home throughout -- and some teams now know they will not be in the postseason at all.

The most conspicuous confirmed absentee is the Pittsburgh Steelers, who spent the 40th anniversary of their Immaculate Reception victory being eliminated by a 13-10 loss to the Bengals. Cincinnati is heading to the playoffs for a second consecutive season, a feat the Bengals accomplished just once previously, in 1981 and 1982.

The New York Giants (8-7) stumbled to a 33-14 loss against the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday, leaving the defending Super Bowl champions clinging to slim hopes of a wild-card berth. The Giants will watch the Washington Redskins (9-6) and Dallas Cowboys (8-7) duel for the NFC East title next week.

The Falcons blasted the Detroit Lions 31-18 Saturday night to push their record to 13-2. Atlanta wrapped up the NFC South championship, home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs and a bye during the wild-card round.

Also definitely in the NFC postseason party are the San Francisco 49ers (10-3-1 going into their Sunday night game at Seattle) and the NFC North champion Green Bay Packers, 12-4 after blasting the Tennessee Titans 55-7.

The Minnesota Vikings muddied the playoff scene in both conferences by upsetting the Houston Texans 23-6 Sunday. That gave the Vikings a 9-6 mark and a shot at the wild-card spot, although they close against Green Bay next week. The Seahawks (9-5 before the Sunday night game) held the top wild-card spot pending their result against San Francisco.

Washington earned its fifth consecutive victory, beating the Philadelphia Eagles 27-20. The Chicago Bears are also 9-6 after beating up the Arizona Cardinals 28-13.

The Vikings' upset dropped Houston to 12-3 and prevented the Texans from locking up the AFC's top seed. However, Houston, the AFC South champion, can lock up home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs with a win against the Indianapolis Colts.

The AFC West champion Denver Broncos are also 12-3 after overpowering Cleveland 34-17 Sunday. The AFC East champion New England Patriots, 11-4 after a 23-16 victory over Jacksonville, are still within reach of the No. 1 seed.

Also in the AFC playoffs are the Ravens (10-5), the Colts (10-5) and Bengals (9-6). Indianapolis edged the Kansas City Chiefs 20-13 Sunday.