NFL playoff watch: Bears, Chargers join postseason; Saints in command of No. 1 in NFC

The Chicago Bears clinched their first playoff spot since 2012 by beating the Green Bay Packers on Sunday. The Bears remain the NFC’s No. 3 seed.

Two other NFC teams failed to stamp their playoff tickets on Sunday: The Dallas Cowboys and Seattle Seahawks both lost, though both still remain in good shape to qualify.

It was a similar story in the AFC: Three teams had the chance to clinch postseason berths, but only one did. The Los Angeles Chargers’ game-winning two-point conversion with four seconds left against the Kansas City Chiefs on Thursday night gave them the chance to play in January for the first time since 2013.

Once the Miami Dolphins lost to Minnesota during the early window on Sunday, the New England Patriots would have been in with a win in Pittsburgh, which didn’t happen.

And while the Houston Texans did what they could do, beating the Jets on Saturday, they needed help from multiple teams (there were a lot of possibilities) to qualify and didn’t get it.

(* – clinched playoff spot)


Everybody celebrate: Chicago Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky greets fans after the team’s playoff-clinching win on Sunday. (AP)
Everybody celebrate: Chicago Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky greets fans after the team’s playoff-clinching win on Sunday. (AP)
  1. New Orleans Saints (12-2)*: The Saints couldn’t clinch a first-round bye on Monday night because of the Bears’ win, but they took a big step in securing the NFC’s No. 1 seed after defeating Carolina on Monday night. The Saints are close to gaining home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs. New Orleans is 13-2 in the Superdome the past two seasons, including last year’s divisional round. Its final two: vs. Pittsburgh Steelers and Carolina.

  2. Los Angeles Rams (11-3)*: The Bears also played spoiler for the Rams’ chance of clinching a first-round bye. Sunday’s loss to the Philadelphia Eagles didn’t help. The Rams have already won the NFC West, though getting a week off during the wild-card round is always a bonus. L.A.’s final two: at Arizona Cardinals and vs. San Francisco 49ers.

  3. Chicago Bears (10-4)*: Congratulations to Matt Nagy and the Bears, who have given their football-loving city a lot to feel good about to this point. Their defense makes plays every week, and Mitchell Trubisky played much better against the Packers than he did against the Rams the week before, showing he didn’t let adversity carry over. Chicago’s final two: at 49ers, at Minnesota Vikings.

  4. Dallas Cowboys (8-6): Can’t imagine a worse outing for the Cowboys than they had on Sunday in Indianapolis. The Colts have shown they aren’t pushovers this season, but Dallas was shut out for the first time in 15 years, in a game that could have delivered a division title. The Cowboys had self-inflicted wounds in all three phases of the game. Dallas’ final two: vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers, at New York Giants.

  5. Seattle Seahawks (8-6): The 49ers were eliminated from the playoffs last week, but they weren’t going to fold and didn’t against the Seahawks. Seattle had won four straight to get into position for a wildcard spot, but a missed extra point try and seven punts in regulation plus an eighth in overtime weren’t getting it done against San Francisco. Seattle’s final two: vs. Kansas City Chiefs, vs. Cardinals.

  6. Minnesota Vikings (7-6-1): The Vikings certainly helped their cause with their win over the Miami Dolphins on Sunday. After firing their offensive coordinator earlier in the week and promoting their quarterbacks coach to the play-caller, they certainly looked much better on that side of the ball. Minnesota had a season-high 220 rushing yards after failing to top 100 in any of their previous four games, three of those losses. Minnesota’s final two: at Detroit Lions, vs. Chicago.

Still in contention: Washington (7-7, at Tennessee Titans, vs. Philadelphia Eagles); Panthers (6-8, vs. Atlanta Falcons, at Saints); Eagles (7-7, vs. Houston Texans, at Washington Redskins).

Mathematically eliminated: Green Bay (5-8-1), Atlanta (5-9), Tampa Bay (5-9), Giants (5-9) and Detroit (5-9) joined the 49ers (4-10) and Arizona (3-11).


Thank you, Patriots; The Houston Texans moved into the No. 2 seed in the AFC after the New England Patriots’ loss to Pittsburgh. (AP)
Thank you, Patriots; The Houston Texans moved into the No. 2 seed in the AFC after the New England Patriots’ loss to Pittsburgh. (AP)
  1. Kansas City Chiefs (11-3)*: Are the Chiefs faltering down the stretch? In their past four games, they’re 2-2 (one win was in overtime), and the games have been decided by three, seven, three and one points. Kansas City’s final two: at Seattle, vs. Oakland Raiders.

  2. Houston Texans (10-4): The Patriots’ loss means that the Texans are currently the AFC’s No. 2 seed, and in place for the franchise to earn a first-round bye for the first time ever. New England beat Houston in Week 1, so if the Texans falter, the Patriots have the head-to-head tiebreaker. Texans’ final two: at Eagles, vs. Jaguars.

  3. New England Patriots (9-5): The Patriots scored on their first possession against the Steelers on Sunday then punted five straight times, never getting further than the Pittsburgh 46 in that stretch. That’s not going to cut it against an offense as explosive as the Steelers’. New England hasn’t lost five games in a season since 2009 – that’s impressive. New England’s final two: vs. Buffalo Bills, vs. New York Jets.

  4. Pittsburgh Steelers (8-5-1): The Steelers needed that win over New England, both to end a three-game losing streak and to keep the Ravens from overtaking them in the AFC North standings. The Steelers’ final two: at New Orleans, vs. Cincinnati Bengals.

  5. Los Angeles Chargers (11-3)*: What a win for the Chargers on Thursday night. Like the Chiefs, they also living dangerously, with their last three games, all wins, decided by five points or less. Los Angeles’ last two: vs. Baltimore Ravens, at Denver Broncos.

  6. Baltimore Ravens (8-6): The Ravens are now 4-1 with Lamar Jackson at starting quarterback, and for now, it’s his team: Joe Flacco was healthy enough to play, but was Jackson’s backup against the Buccaneers on Sunday. Jackson had his most efficient game passing, completing 60.9 percent of his attempts for just 131 yards. Baltimore’s last two: at Chargers, vs. Cleveland Browns.

Still in contention: Indianapolis (8-6, vs. Giants, at Tennessee Titans); Tennessee (8-6, vs. Washington, vs. Indianapolis); Miami (7-7, vs. Jaguars, at Bills).

Mathematically eliminated: Denver (6-8) and Cincinnati (6-8) joined the Bills (5-9), Jaguars (4-10), Jets (4-10) and Raiders (3-11).

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