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Bengals, Colts reach playoffs while Vikings stun Texans

by AFP

PITTSBURGH, Pennsylvania (AFP) –

Andy Dalton of the Bengals tries to get around the tackle of James Harrison of the Steelers on December 23, 2012

Andy Dalton of the Cincinnati Bengals tries to get around the tackle of James Harrison of the Pittsburgh Steelers on December 23, 2012 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Cincinnati won the game 13-10.

Cincinnati and Indianapolis qualified for the National Football League playoffs with narrow victories while Minnesota’s post-season bid was boosted by an upset of Houston.

Josh Brown’s 43-yard field goal with four seconds remaining gave Cincinnati a 13-10 victory at Pittsburgh that clinched a playoff berth for the triumphant Bengals and left the Steelers sitting home after a fifth loss in six games.

The Bengals are in the playoffs in back-to-back seasons for the first time since 1981 and 1982.

“Huge team win,” Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton said. “It’s exactly what we needed. Our defense played great, giving us good field position. Obviously there are areas we can improve, but it feels good to get the win.”

And Indianapolis rookie star Andrew Luck, this year’s NFL Draft top pick, flipped a seven-yard touchdown pass to Reggie Wayne with 4:08 to play to give the Colts a 20-13 win at Kansas City to secure a playoff spot.

The Bengals and Colts joined Denver, New England, Houston and Baltimore as American Conference playoff qualifiers while Atlanta, San Francisco and Green Bay have booked three of six berths on offer in the National Conference.

Running back Vick Ballard  of the Colts rushes up field against the Kansas City Chiefs on December 23, 2012

Running back Vick Ballard of the Indianapolis Colts rushes up field against the Kansas City Chiefs during the first half on December 23, 2012 at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri. Indianapolis defeated Kansas City 20-13.

Seattle can clinch a playoff trip later Sunday with a home victory over San Francisco while Washington, Dallas, Minnesota, Chicago and the New York Giants will fight into next week’s final regular season games for the last spots.

Minnesota stayed in position for a National Conference spot by shocking host Houston 23-6, dropping the Texans to 12-3 and keeping them from clinching a home-field edge throughout the American Conference playoffs.

Adrian Peterson, the NFL season rushing leader, ran 25 times for 86 yards for the Vikings, leaving him 207 yards shy of the one-season NFL rushing record of 2,105 yards set by Eric Dickerson with the Los Angeles Rams in 1984.

Peterson will try to make history and Minnesota will try to reach the playoffs in next week’s season finale against Green Bay.

The Washington Redskins won their sixth game in a row with a 27-20 triumph at Philadelphia, improving to 9-6 to stay atop the NFC East division entering next weekend’s showdown with Dallas, which lost 34-31 in over-time to visiting New Orleans to fall to 8-7.

Redskins rookie Robert Griffin III completed 16-of-24 passes for 198 yards and two touchdowns despite playing with a brace on his sprained right knee after missing last week’s victory at Cleveland.

Fans watch the action between the Houston Texans and the Minnesota Vikings at Reliant Stadium on December 23, 2012

Fans watch the action between the Houston Texans and the Minnesota Vikings at Reliant Stadium on December 23, 2012 in Houston, Texas. Minnesota stayed in position for a National Conference spot by shocking host Houston 23-6

The Redskins would claim their first division crown since 1999 with a home triumph over the arch-rival Cowboys next Sunday.

Garrett Hartley’s 20-yard field goal gave New Orleans a victory after Tony Romo threw two touchdown passes in the final 3:35 to lift Dallas level and force over-time.

Charles Tillman returned an interception 10 yards for a touchdown and Zack Bowman scored on a one-yard fumble recovery return to power Chicago over Arizona 28-13, keeping the Bears in playoff contention.

Baltimore clinched the AFC North division crown with a 33-14 home triumph over the reigning Super Bowl champion Giants, with Joe Flacco throwing for 309 yards and two touchdowns to dim New York’s playoff hopes.

Peyton Manning threw for a season-high 339 yards and three touchdowns to lead Denver over Cleveland 34-12, stretching the Broncos’ win streak to 10 games.

Denver (12-3) and New England (11-4) remain within reach of Houston (12-3) for an American Conference home-field playoff edge.

In other games Sunday, Green Bay routed visiting Tennessee 55-7, host Miami beat Buffalo 24-10, St. Louis won 28-13 at Tampa Bay, New England won 23-16 at Jacksonville, host Carolina downed Oakland 17-6 and visiting San Diego defeated the New York Jets 27-17.

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