Vikings + Jaguars Enjoy Clinchers This Weekend
UNDATED (AP) — It was a clinching day for the Minnesota Vikings and Jacksonville Jaguars.
The Vikings wrapped up the NFC North as Case Keenum passed for 236 yards and two scores in a 34-7 rout of the Bengals. Running backs Latavius Murray and Jerick McKinnon combined for 37 touches and 242 yards from scrimmage for the 11-3 Vikings.
Minnesota led 14-0 about nine minutes into the game after Eric Kendricks returned an interception for a touchdown.
The lopsided score allowed Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater to make his season debut, his first game in 16 months since a massive knee injury.
The Jaguars are in the playoffs for the first time in 10 years following a 45-7 drubbing of the Texans.
Blake Bortles had a career-best quarterback rating of 143.8 after throwing for a season-high 326 yards and three touchdowns. Two of the TD tosses went to Jaydon Mickens, a reserve receiver who was sleeping in his car earlier this season. Keelan Cole also had a scoring grab and amassed 186 receiving yards as the Jaguars improved to 10-4.
Meanwhile, the AFC East-champion Patriots drew closer to claiming home-field advantage throughout the conference playoffs by winning at Pittsburgh.
Dion Lewis scored the go-ahead touchdown on an eight-yard run with 56 seconds remaining as New England rallied to beat the Steelers 27-24. Rob Gronkowski finished with nine receptions for 168 yards, including four catches on the game-winning drive.
Tom Brady passed for 298 yards and two TDs for the Patriots, who trailed 24-16 going into the fourth quarter.
Le'Veon Bell ran for 117 yards, including a short scoring run that put Pittsburgh ahead by eight late in the third period. Ben Roethlisberger threw for 281 yards and two scores for the Steelers, but he also had a costly turnover on their final drive.
Both teams are 11-3.
Elsewhere in the NFL:
— The Eagles' No. 2 quarterback helped them secure a first-round playoff bye as Nick Foles threw for 237 yards and four touchdowns in a 34-29 win over the 2-12 Giants. Foles hit Alshon Jeffery, Zach Ertz, Trey Burton and Nelson Agholor on short scoring passes as Philadelphia improved to an NFL-best 12-2. The Eagles also blocked three Giants kicks to help Philadelphia withstand a productive afternoon by Eli Manning, who threw for a season-high 434 yards and three touchdowns.
— The 10-4 Rams are on the verge of clinching the NFC West after Todd Gurley scored four touchdowns and rushed for 152 yards in just 2½ quarters of a 42-7 dismantling of the Seahawks. Gurley had 144 yards rushing in the first half and added a 14-yard TD reception midway through the third quarter for a 40-0 Los Angeles lead. Russell Wilson was 14 of 30 for 142 yards and was sacked seven times as Seattle dropped to 8-6.
— Mark Ingram ran for two scores and gained 151 yards from scrimmage, including a late 50-yard TD burst in the Saints' 31-19 win over the Jets. Michael Thomas also had a touchdown grab and became the second NFL player with at least 90 receptions in his first two seasons. Drew Brees completed 26 of 36 passes for 285 yards and two touchdowns for the 10-4 Saints, who still own the tiebreaker over the Panthers for first place in the NFC South.
— Carolina kept pace with New Orleans at 10-4 as Cam Newton threw for 242 yards and four touchdowns to lead a 31-24 victory over the Packers. Damiere Byrd had two touchdown catches, while Christian McCaffrey had 136 yards from scrimmage and a scoring reception in the Panthers' fourth straight win. Aaron Rodgers threw for 290 yards and three touchdowns in his first game since breaking his collarbone two months ago, but he also had three interceptions as Green Bay dropped to 7-7.
— The Ravens improved to 8-6 and bolstered their wild-card chances as Joe Flacco threw a touchdown pass and ran for a score in a 27-10 win at Cleveland. Defensive tackle Brandon Williams recovered a fumble and rolled in for a third-quarter TD to put the Ravens up 24-10. DeShone Kizer threw two more interceptions as the Browns moved within two losses of becoming the NFL's second 0-16 team.
— LeSean McCoy scored twice and surpassed 10,000 career-yards rushing as the Bills beat the Dolphins 24-16 to move to 8-6. Shareece Wright and Jordan Poyer intercepted Miami's Jay Cutler on consecutive drives to start the second half, helping Buffalo win for the third time in four games. Tyrod Taylor showed no signs of a bruised left knee that forced him to miss one game, running for a four-yard TD and completing 17 of 29 passes for 224 yards.
— Dan Bailey hit a 19-yard field goal with 1:44 left before Derek Carr fumbled inches from the goal line with 31 seconds remaining to clinch the Cowboys' 20-17 win at Oakland. Bailey's tiebreaking kick came after Dak Prescott converted a fourth-down sneak by about a millimeter. Dallas went 3-3 during Ezekiel Elliott's six-game suspension and remains in the postseason hunt at 8-6.
— The Redskins were 20-15 winners against the Cardinals as Kirk Cousins was 18 of 26 for 196 yards and two TDs. Washington kept Arizona out of the end zone and preserved the win when Anthony Lanier sacked Blaine Gabbert and forced a fumble that Preston Smith recovered. Smith also intercepted Gabbert and Lanier batted down three passes and had two sacks. Both teams are 6-8.
— Robbie Gould nailed a 45-yard kick as time expired to give the 49ers their third straight win 25-23 against the Titans. Jimmy Garoppolo threw for a career-high 381 yards and a touchdown for San Francisco, which also got six field goals out of Gould. He hit kicks of 50, 48 and 45 yards while running his string of successful field goal attempts to 20 straight.
Lewis refutes ESPN report
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Bengals coach Marvin Lewis has dismissed an ESPN report that says he doesn't want to return to the team next season.
Lewis steadfastly denied the report in his postgame news conference, saying it's just speculation and that he hasn't made any decision. He called it recycled from the summer and irrelevant to the team's second straight lackluster performance.
NFL taking over investigation of Richardson allegations
UNDATED (AP) — Panthers owner Jerry Richardson has announced that he will sell the NFL team after the season.
The decision comes amid a growing investigation that accuses him of sexual misconduct and using racist language at work.
The team made the announcement on Twitter and linked a five-paragraph letter by the Panthers' only owner. He said he believed it is time to turn the franchise over to new ownership and hoped the organization would be firmly focused on playing and winning the Super Bowl. However, the letter didn't directly address the investigation or allegations against him.