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Texans beat Titans in an overtime thriller

Tennessee Titans v Houston Texans Getty Images

For the second week in a row, the Houston Texans have come from behind to win on a fantastic finish. And this week was even crazier than last week.

The Texans went into overtime to beat the Titans, and overtime only came after one of the craziest late-game sequences you’ll ever see, as Texans kicker Randy Bullock got four tries at a game-winning field goal: The first time, Bullock’s kick was good, but Titans coach Mike Munchak had called timeout to ice the kicker, and the play had been waved off. On Bullock’s second try the field goal was blocked, but the Titans were offside, so the Texans got another chance. On the third try, the kick was wide left, but Munchak had called timeout to ice the kicker again. The fourth try was the one that finally counted, and it bounced off the upright and missed.

That led to overtime, where the Texans received the kickoff, marched down the field and scored on a Matt Schaub pass to DeAndre Hopkins, who leapt into the air in the end zone, tiptoed in bounds and secured the ball as he was knocked to the ground.

It had been a back-and-forth game all day, with the Texans jumping out to an early lead, the Titans coming back to lead at halftime, the Texans appearing to take control early in the fourth quarter and then the Titans taking yet another lead. Just after the two-minute warning Arian Foster scored a 1-yard touchdown and then scored a two-point conversion to tie the game.

The win is the second in a row that came only after the Texans appeared to be in deep trouble in the fourth quarter, and although neither win has come easy, Houston will gladly take them both. The Texans are 2-0.

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AFC playoff picture: Chargers turn up the pressure on wild-card foes

Sean Lissemore AP

Yes, the Chargers surrendered 355 yards rushing to the 49ers on Saturday night. And yes, the Chargers have a few too many injuries for comfort.

Nevertheless, the Chargers’ 38-35 overtime victory at San Francisco keeps them in the thick of the wild-card race. At the moment, they are the No. 7 seed in the AFC, a half-game back of Baltimore and Pittsburgh and a half-game ahead of Kansas City and Buffalo.

Now, the Chargers wait. They are in the clubhouse, visor on table, an iced tea at their fingertips, shirt untucked. They were in some real rough against the Niners, down 21 points on two occasions, but they got it going on the back nine, and they’ve carded a good score.

Yes, their swing isn’t textbook perfect, but these Chargers know how to get up-and-down. Let’s see what the other wild-card contenders do if they get in the deep stuff.

Here’s how the AFC playoff seeding looks after Saturday night. The NFL’s standings and tiebreaking rules were cited. Also, the Week 16 playoff scenarios are herein.

THE BIG SIX

1. New England Patriots (11-3, .786). Has clinched playoff spot. AFC East winner. Seeded ahead of Denver on basis of head-to-head win.

2. Denver Broncos (11-3, .786). Has clinched playoff spot. AFC West winner.

3. Indianapolis Colts (10-4, .714). Has clinched playoff spot. AFC South winner.

4. Cincinnati Bengals (9-4-1, .679). AFC North leader.

5. Pittsburgh Steelers (9-5, .643). Wild card No. 1. Seeded ahead of Baltimore on basis of superior AFC North record (3-2 vs. 2-3).

6. Baltimore Ravens (9-5, .643). Wild card No. 2.

JUST MISSING

7. San Diego Chargers (9-6, .600).

8. Kansas City Chiefs (8-6, .571). Seeded ahead of Bills on basis of head-to-head win.

9. Buffalo Bills (8-6, .571).

10. Houston Texans (7-7, .500). Seeded ahead of Dolphins on basis of better AFC record (6-4 vs. 6-5).

11. Miami Dolphins (7-7, .500).

Note: According to NFL.com, the Browns (7-7) have been officially knocked out of playoff contention with San Diego’s win.

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Chargers’ miraculous comeback keeps playoff hopes alive

frankgore AP

The Chargers are still in it.

After a wild, back-and-forth game that saw the 49ers take a 21-0 lead only to have the Chargers storm back, force overtime and ultimately win 38-35, the Chargers are 9-6 and still right in the thick of the AFC playoff race.

Although a loss to the 49ers tonight wouldn’t have mathematically eliminated the Chargers from playoff contention, it would have made it an extreme long shot. But with this victory, the Chargers are right in the thick of things heading into Week 17.

The 49ers lost despite rushing for a whopping 355 yards — the most rushing yards any losing team has had in an NFL game since at least 1940. It was a tough loss in a game they looked like they were sure to win, and the end of this season is a tough way for Jim Harbaugh to exit San Francisco, as he surely will once this season is over.

San Francisco is out of the playoff race, but San Diego is very much alive. A big win in a great game on Saturday night has the Chargers feeling good about their chances, with one game to go.

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Chargers, 49ers head to overtime

rivers AP

It’s not over yet in San Francisco.

Phil Dawson’s potentially game-winning 60-yard field goal missed at the end of the fourth quarter, and as a result the Chargers and 49ers are heading to overtime.

It’s been a wild, back-and-forth game in which the 49ers jumped out to a 21-0 lead only to have the Chargers storm back and finally tie it 35-35 in the final minute.

Now they’ll have an additional opportunity to settle it.

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90-yard run gives 49ers some breathing room

Kaepernick Getty Images

Just as the Chargers were creeping back into the game, 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick delivered a potential knockout blow.

Late in the third quarter and just inside the San Francisco 10, Kaepernick exploded for a 90-yard touchdown run to re-establish the home team’s 14-point lead, 35-21.  The effort came on a pass play, with Kaepernick stepping up in the pocket to his right, seeing a crease, and taking off.

That 14-point lead had just been carved in half by a Kaepernick blunder deep in 49ers territory, losing the ball while trying to avoid a sack.  San Diego recovered in the end zone to cut the margin from 28-14 to 28-21.

The Chargers’ score came one play after an impressive 63-yard catch and run by tight end Vernon Davis was wiped out by a pair of penalties.

There’s still time for the Chargers to come back and win, but the momentum has just swung sharply to the 49ers, not long after it had swung sharply to the 49ers.

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Desperate Eagles become Colts fans

Kelly AP

Looking like a team ready to make its move to the top of the NFC only 23 days ago, the Eagles have chased their 9-3 start with an 0-3 run that has a once-promising season on the brink.

The formula is now as simple as it can be for the Eagles:  Root for the Cowboys to lose the next two, and beat the Giants in New York.  Dallas faces the Colts on Sunday.

“I’ve been a big Andrew Luck fan before, now I’m going to be an even bigger one,” Eagles tight end Zach Ertz said after the game, via the team’s official website.

Coach Chip Kelly doesn’t seem to be interesting in donning blue and white.

“We have one game left against the New York Giants and we need to win that game,” Kelly told reporters after the loss.  “There are a lot of other things that have to happen besides that and we have no control over those.  The only thing we can do is prepare for the Giants.”

Maybe Kelly has the right idea.  Rooting for the Colts on Sunday becomes rooting for the team that just beat Philly next Sunday, when Washington hosts Dallas.  Which means rooting in part for receiver DeSean Jackson, the guy Kelly no longer wanted after 2013.  The guy who gained 126 yards against the Eagles on Saturday.

“We felt like our corners could stay with him and obviously they didn’t,” Kelly said.

No, they didn’t.  And the Eagles now need help to stay with the Cowboys.

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49ers running wild over Chargers

kaep AP

Every year in the NFL, there’s a late-season game in which a team with nothing to play for beats a team with everything to play for. Today it’s happening twice in one day.

Washington has already beaten Philadelphia, and now San Francisco is dominating San Diego.

The 49ers, who are mathematically eliminated from playoff contention, are running all over the Chargers, who are still fighting for a wild-card berth. Just five minutes into the second quarter, the 49ers took a 21-0 lead when Antoine Bethea picked off a Philip Rivers pass and ran it back 49 yards for a touchdown.

Prior to that the 49ers had scored two touchdowns on offense, one on a pass from Colin Kaepernick to Bruce Ellington and one on a 52-yard Frank Gore run. San Francisco is cruising.

The Chargers will either pull off one of the biggest comebacks of the season, or they’ll lose a huge game to a team that’s already out of the playoff race.

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Chargers suffer yet another injury at center

Chris Watt AP

No team has been more devastated by injuries at one position this season than the Chargers at center.

Chris Watt, who got the start tonight against the 49ers, was San Diego’s fourth different starting center this year. And in the first quarter, he suffered an apparent left ankle injury and limped off the field. He was later carted to the locker room and replaced by Trevor Robinson.

Chargers centers Nick Hardwick, Rich Ohrnberger and Doug Legursky are all on injured reserve.

The injury to Watt isn’t the only problem for the Chargers tonight: A bigger problem is that their defense can’t stop the 49ers’ running game. San Francisco had 126 rushing yards in the first 12 minutes of the game and took an early 7-0 lead.

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NFC playoff picture: Lions clinch thanks to Eagles’ loss

Miami Dolphins v Detroit Lions Getty Images

The big winners in Washington on Saturday were the Lions, who clinched a playoff berth with the Eagles’ loss.

And the big losers were, of course, the Eagles: They’re not eliminated from playoff contention yet, but they’re precariously close and now have to have a whole lot of games go their way.

Here’s how the NFC playoff picture looks after the Eagles’ surprise loss.

THE BIG SIX

1. Arizona Cardinals (11-3). NFC West leader. Has clinched playoff spot. Would clinch NFC West and No. 1 overall seed with victory Sunday vs. Seattle.

2. Detroit Lions (10-4). NFC North leader. Would clinch NFC North with a win and a Packers loss.

3. Dallas Cowboys (10-4). NFC East leader. Would clinch NFC East with a win vs. Indianapolis on Sunday.

4. New Orleans Saints (6-8). NFC South leader. Would clinch NFC South with a win vs. Atlanta and a Panthers loss.

5. Seattle Seahawks (10-4). Wild card No. 1. Would clinch a playoff berth with a win vs. Arizona on Sunday.

6. Green Bay Packers (10-4). Wild card No. 2. Would clinch a playoff berth with a win vs. Tampa Bay on Sunday.

OUTSIDE LOOKING IN

Philadelphia Eagles (9-6). Can still win the NFC East but only if they beat the Giants next week while the Cowboys lose both Sunday against Indianapolis and next week against Washington.

OTHER NFC SOUTH CONTENDERS

Carolina Panthers (5-8-1). Will win the NFC South if they win out and the Saints lose once.

Atlanta Falcons (5-9). Will win the NFC South if they win out.

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Eagles choke in Washington

zachertz AP

Philadelphia had everything to play for. Washington had nothing to play for. Everyone figured the Eagles would win easily.

It didn’t work out that way.

Instead, the Eagles went into Washington badly needing a win to keep their playoff hopes alive, and instead choked the game away, losing 27-24 on a Kai Forbath field goal with five seconds left. Mark Sanchez was good for much of the game, but his one interception was what set up Washington’s game-winner.

Adding insult to injury for the Eagles, the best player on the field for Washington was DeSean Jackson, the wide receiver whom Eagles coach Chip Kelly released this offseason. Eagles tight end Zach Ertz was excellent catching short passes, with 15 receptions for 115 yards. But the Eagles could have used a receiver who can stretch the field — that’s what they had last year with Jackson, and that’s what they lacked today.

The loss doesn’t completely eliminate the Eagles from playoff contention, but it does mean their playoff hopes are slim. Eagles fans are now desperately hoping the Cowboys lose tomorrow against the Colts.

Washington won’t be going to the playoffs, but it will go into the offseason with a tough decision about the quarterback position. Robert Griffin III helped the team win today, but he was far from spectacular as a passer, completing just 16 of 23 passes for 220 yards, with no touchdowns and one interception. (In fact, the best thing he did was draw repeated roughing the passer penalties against the Eagles.) Has Griffin done enough to get the starting job next year? Has Jay Gruden done enough to keep the coaching job next year?

Those questions remain to be answered. But today, Washington fans can celebrate. They just earned a hard-fought win, and likely knocked the rival Eagles out of the playoffs in the process.

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Vick praises Jameis Winston as the “future of the NFL”

Winston Getty Images

A vague sense has emerged in recent weeks that a draft-stock gap exists between 2014 Heisman winner Marcus Mariota and 2013 Heisman winner Jameis Winston.  There indeed may be a gap by the time the 2015 draft begins, and it may be Winston who’s the better player.

Jets quarterback Mike Vick, the first overall pick in the draft nearly 14 years ago, recently heaped praise on Winston.

“He may make some poor decisions, but he gets on that football field and he plays his ass off,” Vick said, via Darryl Slater of NJ.com.  “Yeah, he can mature.  He’ll mature.  I see him maturing as time goes on.  Like, this year hasn’t been as bad of a year as the first year was for Jameis.  I think the kid will continue to improve.  I think he’s the future of the NFL.”

This year hasn’t been perfect, though.  The offseason featured the crab-leg caper.  Then, Winston was suspended for a game after yelling an obscene phrase on campus.  He nevertheless dressed for the game and entered the field in full uniform before being sent back inside.  More recently, Winston placed his hands on and physically moved an official who was delaying the snap.

As a result, Winston will attract plenty of attention, wherever he goes.  And that could make it difficult for him to thrive with a team like the Jets.

“I think it’s hard,” Vick said.  “I think his support cast just has to be around him.  You can’t put him in a room with a group of young guys. . . .  The more veterans around, the more he’ll pick up on things and he’ll mature quickly.  That’s the trend I’ve been around since I’ve been in the league.”

For Winston, the trend at the college level has been to win, each and every week.  He’s 29-0.  A win over Mariota and Oregon will move him to 30-0 and commence talk that, despite Mariota’s accomplishments, perhaps Winston is the better NFL prospect.

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Questionable roughing the passer calls help Washington take the lead

rg3 AP

Two roughing the passer penalties have helped Washington take a surprising lead in the third quarter today.

A 12-play, 76-yard drive that resulted in a one-yard touchdown run by Darrel Young was helped along when the Eagles were twice flagged for hits on Robert Griffin III.

Both of the calls were questionable. Neither was particularly late, neither was a direct shot to Griffin’s head and neither drove Griffin into the ground at the end of the hit. Plenty of worse hits go uncalled every week.

But these two were called, and they went against the Eagles, who now trail 17-14.

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Eagles fans show up in big numbers at FedEx Field

Sanchez Getty Images

In a development that’s not really surprising given that one team has something to play for and the other team is hoping to simply get this thing over with already, plenty of Eagles fans have shown up at FedEx Field for Saturday’s game against Washington.

Via JP Finlay of CSNWashington.com, receiver DeSean Jackson was booed when his image appeared on video screens to wish fans happy holidays.

Still, Eagles fans may not actually be outnumbering Washington fans.  That’s the assessment made by Dan Steinberg of the Washington Post.  Steinberg points out that there may indeed be more Eagles fans than home-team fans in the stadium’s standing room-only area.

For now, Eagles fans should be happy.  Through two quarters, Philly leads 14-10.

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LeSean McCoy touchdown gives Eagles an early lead

sanchez AP

In a must-win game in Washington, the Eagles came out looking sloppy but quickly turned things around.

On Philadelphia’s first drive, Eagles quarterback Mark Sanchez was sacked by Ryan Kerrigan, forcing a fumble that Kerrigan recovered. Washington’s offense then managed to pick up 40 yards on a 12-play drive before settling for a Kai Forbath 25-yard field goal.

But on Philadelphia’s second drive, things went more according to plan. The Eagles marched down the field covering 79 yards on 10 plays, culminating in a LeSean McCoy touchdown run that gave the Eagles a 7-3 lead.

This is a big game for Philadelphia and a game in which Washington has nothing to play for. We’ll see if Washington will keep fighting hard anyway.

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Trent Williams good to go vs. Eagles

Washington Redskins v Philadelphia Eagles Getty Images

Washington left tackle Trent Williams is ready to play today against Philadelphia.

Although he was listed as questionable with a shoulder injury, Williams is active and will start. That’s good news for starting quarterback Robert Griffin III.

Washington’s inactives are LB Keenan Robinson, LB Gabe Miller, DE Jason Hatcher, G Josh LeRibeus, WR Leonard Hankerson, RB Roy Helu and DB Kenny Okoro.

Philadelphia’s inactives are QB Nick Foles, S Jerome Couplin, LB Trent Cole, OL Julian Vandervelde, OL Dennis Kelly, WR Jeff Maehl and DE Taylor Hart.

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Decision to delay L.A. relocation came from teams, technically

LA Reuters

Potato, potahto.  Tomato, tomahto.  Los Angeles.  Los Angeleez.

Despite the words used, the NFL won’t be returning to L.A. in 2015.  Adam Schefter of ESPN reported on Saturday that Commissioner Roger Goodell informed the three contenders to relocate — the Rams, Raiders, and Chargers — that no team will move to Los Angeles next year.  A league source tells PFT that, technically, the teams decided not to try to move next year.

It’s probably a distinction without a difference.  However, Schefter’s report creates the impression that Goodell dictated the outcome to the teams.  Given the year the league office has had, that’s not the most favorable message to send.

Even if, as we’re told, the decision was made by the teams, it’s quite possible if not likely that the teams made the decision only after it was made clear to them that an attempt to move to L.A. would not succeed in 2015.

Then there’s the reality that going against the wishes of the powers-that-be in 2015 could make it harder to secure approval to move in 2016.

Either way, L.A. won’t be getting one or more NFL teams in 2015.  But the signals are getting stronger and stronger for an L.A. relocation come 2016.

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