NFL teams celebrate a merry 'Clinchmas'
It was a Merry Clinchmas for several NFL teams on Christmas Eve.
Five teams clinched either a playoff berth or seed while the Cleveland Browns clinched the number one overall pick in the NFL Draft for the second straight year.
Cleveland quarterback DeShone Kizer was picked off twice as the Bears kept the Browns (0-15) winless with a 20-3 win at Soldier Field. The Browns can join the 2008 Lions as the only teams to go winless during a 16-game season by losing at Pittsburgh on New Year's Eve.
While the Browns can now officially start preparing for April's draft, other teams are looking forward to January.
All four AFC divisions have been clinched while the NFC South is the only division up for grabs entering the final week of the regular season.
The Jaguars had the AFC South clinched before their game in San Francisco began. Jacksonville's first division title since 1999 was sealed thanks to Tennessee's 27-23 loss to the Rams (11-4), who won the NFC West for the first time since 2003. The Jaguars (10-5) needed the Titans' loss because they laid an egg at Levi's Stadium with a 44-33 loss to the 49ers. The Titans (8-7) will try to keep their slim playoff hopes alive next week against the Jaguars.
Tennessee's loss also helped the Chargers (8-7) stay alive. The Chargers got a big game from Melvin Gordon for a 14-7 win over the Jets (5-10). The Bolts cannot win the AFC West, however, as the Chiefs (9-6) clinched the division with a 29-13 win over the visiting Dolphins at Arrowhead Stadium. The Bills (8-7) are also alive, but will need some help after their 37-16 loss to the Patriots. New England (12-3) can clinch home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs with a loss by the Steelers (11-3) to the Texans (4-10) on Monday or a win next week against the Jets.
The Eagles (12-2) can clinch home-field in the NFC by beating the Raiders (6-8) on Christmas night.
The NFC South will have at least two representatives in the postseason after the Saints and Panthers both punched their ticket on Sunday. The Saints (11-4) pulled away from the Falcons (9-6) for a 23-13 victory at the Superdome while the Panthers (11-4) rallied for a 22-19 win over the Buccaneers in Charlotte. The Saints can clinch the division next week with a win over the Bucs (4-11) while the Panthers and Falcons will tangle in Atlanta. A Falcons win will give the NFC South three playoff teams while the Panthers need to win and have the Bucs beat the Saints to win the division.
The Seahawks will be hoping for a Panthers victory to help them get into the playoffs. Seattle kept their playoff chances alive with a 21-12 win over the Cowboys, who were eliminated with the loss. Also eliminated from postseason contention in the NFC were the Lions with a 26-17 loss in Cincinnati.
BREES JOINS ILLUSTRIOUS COMPANY
Saints quarterback Drew Brees joined Brett Favre and Peyton Manning as the only players in NFL history with at least 70,000 passing yards. Brees finished Sunday's 23-13 win over the Falcons with 239 yards and a touchdown. Brees also extended his NFL record of seasons with at least 4,000 passing yards to 12.
Chicago's Mitchell Trubisky threw for 193 yards in a 20-3 win over the Browns to give him 2,015 this season. Trubisky set a new Bears record for most passing yards by a rookie quarterback.
Larry Fitzgerald continues to defy Father Time. The 34-year-old Cardinals receiver caught nine passes for 119 yards in a 23-0 win over the Giants to give him 101 receptions for 1,101 yards on the year. It was the third straight year in which Fitzgerald caught at least 100 passes for more than 1,000 yards.
KELCE, GRONK STAND OUT
Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce snared an Alex Smith pass out of the air for a nine-yard touchdown in the second quarter of Kansas City's win over the Dolphins.
Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski had five catches for 67 yards, including a remarkable 17-yard touchdown reception in the second quarter of a 37-16 win over the Bills.
The Panthers needed a late Cam Newton touchdown to beat the Buccaneers, but got a 103-yard kickoff return from Damiere Byrd in the second quarter of the 22-19 win at Bank of America Stadium.
Rams running back Todd Gurley had a huge day with 118 rushing yards and 158 receiving yards, including an 80-yard score on a screen pass from Jared Goff.
Ted Ginn Jr. scored on a 54-yard pass from Brees, but that Saints touchdown was set up by Mashon Lattimore's remarkable interception before half-time of Sunday's win over the Falcons.
Niners cornerback K'Waun Williams had an incredible one-handed interception in the third quarter of the 44-33 win over the Jaguars.
NEWTON HIT IN 'WRONG SPOT'
Panthers quarterback Cam Newton on inadvertently getting hit in the groin by Bucs linebacker Lavonte David: "His hand hit the wrong spot. I plan on having more Chosens one day. He didn't really help."
Gronkowski (jokingly) on winning at least 12 games for eight straight seasons: "It's unbelievable. If you think about it, I got here eight years ago, so maybe that's the reason."
Carolina Panthers 22-19 Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Chicago Bears 20-3 Cleveland Browns
Cincinnati Bengals 26-17 Detroit Lions
Kansas City Chiefs 29-13 Miami Dolphins
New England Patriots 37-16 Buffalo Bills
New Orleans Saints 23-13 Atlanta Falcons
Los Angeles Chargers 14-7 New York Jets
Los Angeles Rams 27-23 Tennessee Titans
Washington Redskins 27-11 Denver Broncos
San Francisco 49ers 44-33 Jacksonville Jaguars
Arizona Cardinals 23-0 New York Giants
Seattle Seahawks 21-12 Dallas Cowboys