Dallas won a division title, Baltimore and the New York Jets earned wild-card spots, and the Super Bowl champs were eliminated on the final day of the NFL season.
Next week’s first round will include three rematches of games Sunday. The playoffs won’t include the defending champion Pittsburgh Steelers, who lost out tiebreakers.
They will include the Jets, who beat two teams already in the postseason to secure the No. 5 seed in the AFC. The Jets routed the AFC North champion Bengals 37-0 in probably the final game at Giants Stadium, one week after the Colts benched many starters in the second half and saw New York rally to beat them.
So the Jets (9-7) will head to Cincinnati for a replay next Saturday to open the playoffs. New York’s win denied Houston a berth.
“This wasn’t our goal to make the playoffs. Our goals are much higher,” Jets coach Rex Ryan said. “We were 4-6 and we had a mission with the team. It went from impossible to improbable, back to impossible and then to inevitable.”
The Ravens (9-7) grabbed an AFC spot when they beat Oakland 21-13. Baltimore will visit AFC East winner New England on Sunday.
The AFC playoff picture was all jumbled going into the day. It got sorted out very cleanly – the two win-and-in teams, Baltimore and the Jets, both won.
Tony Romo and the Cowboys romped over Philadelphia 24-0 to win the NFC East. And the two teams will play again at Cowboys Stadium next Saturday night.
Kurt Warner and the Cardinals will host the Packers next Sunday to conclude the wild-card round. Green Bay (11-5) beat them 33-7 Sunday. Arizona (10-6) will be the NFC’s fourth seed for the second straight year.
There also will be no cold-weather games in the second round. Hosts Minnesota, New Orleans and Indianapolis play inside domes, and San Diego is the other site.
For the second straight year, the Eagles-Cowboys showdown was a rout. This time, Dallas did the damage.
Dallas swept Philadelphia this season to earn the division crown, dropping the Eagles to the sixth seed, both at 11-5.
Like the Jets, Baltimore began the season 3-0.
“We’ve had so many ups and downs, we’ve had so many close games, and now we go forth 0-0,” said linebacker Ray Lewis, whose Ravens lost in the AFC title game to Pittsburgh last January. “That’s the type of message I was trying to tell my teammates before this game. In my 14 years, I’ve never had a pretty road to the playoffs. It’s always been a grind, but there’s no better thing than having that grind and getting to advance.”
Minnesota’s 44-7 blitz of the New York Giants gave Brett Favre and the Vikings (12-4) a first-round bye. New Orleans (13-3) is the NFC’s No. 1 seed, but lost its final three games.
“I think it’s proof of what we’re capable of doing,” said Favre, who completed 25 of 31 passes for 316 yards and four touchdowns in less than three quarters without a turnover. “Where it takes us from here, I have no idea. But it was definitely a momentum boost and confidence.”
Indianapolis, which dropped its last two games, is the AFC’s top seed at 14-2. San Diego (13-3) also has a bye and won its final 11 games.
Houston has never been to the playoffs and its 9-7 record this year makes for its first winning season. It beat AFC East winner New England 34-27 Sunday.
“I just started yelling,” Texans star receiver Andre Johnson said of the winning record. “It was like a sigh of relief. This is something that I’ve been working for since I’ve been here.”
The Bengals had already clinched their division and rested some regulars, including running back Cedric Benson, for the night matchup with the Jets, who totally outplayed them in frigid weather.
“You’ve got to run the ball in this weather and play defense, and we do that better than anyone,” Ryan said.
Out of the playoffs are the Steelers, who finished 9-7.
“I’d rather we go out with a win than a loss,” said Ben Roethlisberger, who threw three touchdown passes in a 30-24 victory at Miami.
Subscribe to the sports newsletter
Get the day’s top sports headlines and breaking news delivered to your inbox by subscribing here.