AP: Houston loss helps Denver, New England earn byes
By BARRY WILNER
AP Pro Football Writer
Thanks to Houston's late-season slump, Denver and New England will have byes when the AFC playoffs begin next week.
The Texans fell from first to third in the conference Sunday when they lost 28-16 at Indianapolis, which welcomed back coach Chuck Pagano after nearly three months of treatments for leukemia.
AFC West champion Denver won its 11th straight game, 38-3 over Kansas City to secure the top seed. New England blanked Miami 28-0 for the second spot.
Minnesota edged Green Bay 37-34 to grab the final NFC wild card, sinking the Packers to the third seed. Those teams will meet again next Saturday night at Lambeau Field.
The other NFC matchup will have Seattle (11-5), which beat St. Louis 20-13, at Washington on Sunday at 3:30 p.m. Those teams met Sunday night for the NFC East crown, with the Redskins pulling away for a 28-18 win to claim the division title.
Cincinnati (10-6) will be at Houston on Saturday at 3:30 p.m., and Indianapolis (11-5) goes to at Baltimore (10-6) on Sunday at noon. in the AFC wild-card rounds.
The divisional round games will be hosted by Denver on Saturday, Jan. 12, followed by San Francisco (11-4-1) at night. On Sunday, Jan. 13, Atlanta (13-3) will host the early game, followed by New England (12-4).
Peyton Manning threw for three touchdowns as Denver (13-3) routed the Chiefs. New England got the second seed despite having the same record as Houston because it beat the Texans, who lost three of their final four games.
Adrian Peterson had 199 yards against the Packers, finishing with 2,097 — Dickerson's single-season rushing mark in 2,105. But it was rookie kicker Blair Walsh who won it with a 29-yard field goal as time expired.
"Ultimately we got the 'W,'" Peterson said. "I told myself to come into this game focused on one thing, and that's winning."
Green Bay would have been seeded second in the NFC by beating Minnesota.
"The road got a little tougher having to play on opening weekend, but we've got a home game and that's why you win the division," Aaron Rodgers said. "We get to go back home, and the game will be different. They won't have home-crowd advantage, and hopefully that will make a difference."
Baltimore had a chance to move up to the AFC's third seed with a win and a New England loss. But Baltimore lost at Cincinnati as both teams played backups for much of the game.
The Colts were 2-14 last season and chose quarterback Andrew Luck with the top selection in the draft. Luck and offensive coordinator Bruce Arians, who stepped in as interim coach with Pagano sidelined, led the turnaround.
Houston beat Cincinnati in the opening round of last year's playoffs.
The defending Super Bowl champion Giants are out of contention. When Chicago beat Detroit 26-24, the Giants (9-7) were eliminated, even though they routed Philadelphia 42-7.
"It hurts," said Eli Manning. "Each year you want to make the playoffs to give yourself an opportunity to win a championship; 9-7 last year was good enough. It wasn't good enough this year and we knew it wouldn't be."
Minnesota's win eliminated Chicago.