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Road to Super Bowl begins now that NFL playoff field is set

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The playoff chase went down to the final minutes of the season Sunday, when Baltimore squeezed in as AFC North winner, and defending Super Bowl champion Philadelphia got some help to secure an NFC wild card.

That left Pittsburgh and Minnesota out.

Kansas City (12-4) grabbed the AFC’s top seed, followed by New England (11-5), Houston (11-5) and Baltimore (10-6). The Chargers (12-4) own the first wild card and will play at the Ravens next Sunday at 10 a.m. The Colts (10-6) romped past the Titans 33-17 at Tennessee and have the other wild card. They will travel to meet Houston on Saturday afternoon.

The Saints (13-3) have the top seed in the NFC, and the Rams (12-4) got the No. 2 spot when they beat San Francisco. Chicago (12-4), whose win at Minnesota knocked out the Vikings and put the Eagles into the postseason, is seeded third and gets Philadelphia (9-7) next Sunday at 1:40 p.m.

Dallas (10-6) is the fourth seed and will play Seattle (10-6) on Saturday night.

C.J. Mosley intercepted a fourth-down pass by rookie quarterback Baker Mayfield to preserve the Ravens’ 26-24 win as Baltimore rushed for a season-best 296 yards. A year ago, Baltimore missed the playoffs by losing its finale at home to the Bengals, who rallied with a last-minute touchdown.

“If you want to write a book about this season, probably no one would believe it,” coach John Harbaugh said.

Steelers players remained on the field after they edged Cincinnati 16-13 and watched the drama from Baltimore on the videoboard. But their archrival Browns couldn’t help them against the equally hated Ravens, and Pittsburgh (9-6-1) is out.

“It just sucks,” Steelers guard David DeCastro said afterward. “How hard we work, how much effort we put in. To go from 7-2-1 to where we are now is heartbreaking.”

Nick Foles, who led the Eagles to the Super Bowl title over the Patriots in Minneapolis last February, guided them to a resounding 24-0 victory at Washington. Then the Bears helped out at Minnesota with a 24-10 win even though they had nothing to play for, being set as the NFC’s third seed.

Earlier, the Texans rallied from losing their first three games to win the AFC South and become the No 3 seed.

Houston easily handled Jacksonville 20-3 on Sunday as Deshaun Watson threw for 234 yards and ran for a touchdown, and DeAndre Hopkins had 147 yards receiving.

The Texans finished last in the division in 2017. They and the Bears have done the worst-to-first turnaround this season, making it 15 of the past 16 seasons that has occurred in the league.

“It’s do or die now, so you’ve got to put everything on the line now,” Watson said.

“Prepare harder than you did before and anything can happen at this point,” Watson added. “The tournament is wide open and it’s my first playoff, so I’m just excited to get in and see how things go.”

New England, meanwhile, will get a week off in early January for the 13th time since 2001, the most first-round byes in the NFL during that span. The Patriots routed the Jets 38-3, and because they defeated Houston during the season, they get the bye.

“Eleven and five is nothing to be sad about,” Patriots quarterback Tom Brady said. “We fought pretty hard and put ourselves in good position.”

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