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Falcons, Giants book spots in NFL playoffs

AAP logoAAP 24/12/2016

The Atlanta Falcons have qualified for the NFL playoffs while the New York Giants have also been handed a place.

The Falcons beat NFC South rivals the Carolina Panthers 33-16 as Matt Ryan hit tight ends Josh Perkins and DJ Tialavea for touchdowns, Tevin Coleman scored on a 55-yard run and Matt Bryant kicked four field goals.

And the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' 31-24 loss to the New Orleans' Saints ensured they can no longer catch Atlanta, who are confirmed as division champions.

The latter result, which featured two touchdowns for Saints running back Mark Ingram, also left the Giants clear of the Bucs despite losing to the Philadelphia Eagles on Thursday.

The pair join already-confirmed NFC East champions the Dallas Cowboys and NFC West winners the Seattle Seahawks in the post-season.

The latter lost 34-31 to the Arizona Cardinals in a dramatic finish. Seattle scored two touchdowns in the last three minutes to tie the game but Steven Hauschka missed an extra point before Chandler Catanzaro's field goal won it for the Cards.

Aaron Rodgers threw for four touchdowns and ran for another as the Green Bay Packers won 38-25 against Minnesota.

The Pack's win set up an NFC North decider against the Detroit Lions next week, with the loser's playoff spot vulnerable to either Tampa or Washington - the Redskins beat the Chicago Bears 41-21 to move to an 8-6-1 record.

The New England Patriots and Oakland Raiders will go into week 17 with the AFC top seed on the line - but the Raiders will enter the post-season without quarterback Derek Carr.

In the fourth quarter of their 33-25 win over the Indianapolis Colts, the Raiders kept Carr in the game and called a pass play which ended with a Trent Cole sack and a broken leg for Carr.

Coach Jack Del Rio said: "It was a good win but a tough setback to have our quarterback go down like that."

Oakland could get a much-needed Christmas gift on Sunday, when a Denver Broncos win over the Kansas City Chiefs would guarantee the Raiders the AFC West title.

There were no such alarms for the Patriots in a 41-3 trouncing of rivals the New York Jets as Tom Brady threw for three touchdowns and LeGarrette Blount ran for two more.

London-born running back Jay Ajayi ran for 206 yards and a touchdown as the Miami Dolphins beat the Buffalo Bills 34-31 to stay firmly in the wild-card picture.

Carr was not the only quarterback to suffer a broken leg, with Marcus Mariota going down in the Tennessee Titans' damaging 38-17 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars and their interim head coach Doug Marrone.

The Cleveland Browns avoided an 0-16 season with a 20-17 win over the San Diego Chargers.

The San Francisco 49ers also collected an overdue win, 22-21 victory over the Los Angeles Rams thanks to a late two-point conversion by quarterback Colin Kaepernick.

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