Texans win crunch clash with Titans, Patriots seal playoff spot
It is advantage the Houston Texans in the AFC South after they held on for a 24-21 win over the Tennessee Titans, while the New England Patriots sealed a playoff spot with victory over the Cincinnati Bengals.
The Texans and the Titans were locked at 8-5 before doing battle in Week 15 on Sunday, but Houston now have the edge with two rounds of the regular season remaining.
New England responded to back-to-back defeats with a 34-13 success over the Bengals, while the Seattle Seahawks stood on the brink of joining the reigning Super Bowl champions in the postseason following a 30-24 win over the Carolina Panthers.
NFC North leaders the Green Bay Packers were also poised to seal a playoff spot after Aaron Jones scored two touchdowns in a 21-13 defeat of the Chicago Bears at Lambeau Field.
Travis Kelce became the first tight end in NFL history to record 1,000 receiving yards in four consecutive seasons as the Kansas City Chiefs beat the Denver Broncos 23-3 in the snow.
Eli Manning guided the New York Giants past the Miami Dolphins, throwing 20-of-28 for 283 yards, two touchdowns and three interceptions.
Meanwhile, it was a mixed day for Adrian Peterson, another veteran, who tied Walter Payton for the fourth-most rushing touchdowns (110) in NFL history as the Washington Redskins' loss at the hands of the Philadelphia Eagles.
TEXANS HALT TITANS RUN IN BLOCKBUSTER SHOWDOWN
Tennessee had won four in a row to join the Texans at the summit of the AFC South, but they were beaten in their own backyard in a titanic battle.
Deshaun Watson threw two touchdown passes for Kenny Stills in the second quarter to give Houston a 14-0 halftime advantage.
But Ryan Tannehill went in for a touchdown on a fourth-and-goal play in the third quarter and then picked out AJ Brown for another to level it up.
Ka'imi Fairbairn's 29-yard field goal with just over three minutes to go ultimately proved the difference after a TD from Carlos Hyde, with the response from Dion Lewis not enough.
NORMAL SERVICE RESUMED AS BELICHICK BREAKS ANOTHER RECORD
The Patriots were reeling from defeats to the Texans and the Chiefs, but normal service was resumed as they marched into the playoffs yet again.
Head coach Bill Belichick can add another unprecedented achievement to his list, with his record of masterminding 11 consecutive postseason spots taking him beyond a tally he shared with Tony Dungy.
Tom Brady threw for a season-low 128 yards but laid on two scores in an emphatic victory against the 1-13 Bengals, with the Patriots now 11-3.
PACKERS SWEEP BEARS
The Packers beat the Bears again in the 200th meeting between the old rivals.
Green Bay started the season by defeating Chicago, and they pulled off a repeat to go 11-3 at the top of the NFC North.
Two rushing TDs from Jones in the third quarter left the Bears with a mountain to climb and, although they fought all the way, with Anthony Miller scoring in the final quarter, Chicago fell short and are now 7-7.
Week 15 scores:
New England Patriots 34-13 Cincinnati Bengals
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 38-17 Detroit Lions
Houston Texans 24-21 Tennessee Titans
Denver Broncos 3-23 Kansas City Chiefs
Miami Dolphins 20-36 New York Giants
Philadelphia Eagles 37-27 Washington Redskins
Seattle Seahawks 30-24 Carolina Panthers
Chicago Bears 13-21 Green Bay Packers