Falcons’ Big Win at Home Ensures They’ll Have Chance for More

The Falcons must wait a week to find out their opponent in the divisional round. Receiver Roddy White said all that mattered was that the Falcons would be at home. “It’s very important,” he said. “We find a way to win here.”

The Falcons are 20-2 in home games started by Ryan in the last three years.

¶Josh Freeman passed for two touchdowns and the visiting Buccaneers beat the , 23-13, but not even a 10-6 finish — a year after they went 3-13 — could get Tampa Bay into the playoffs.

“It’s rough,” Freeman said as he awaited the results of later games that ultimately eliminated the Buccaneers from the postseason. “We had a good team this year. You hate to say goodbye right now.”

The Saints (11-5), knowing they were locked into the fifth playoff seed in the N.F.C. because of Atlanta’s win over Carolina, pulled several starters in the fourth quarter.

Make Playoffs

drove Indianapolis into position for ’s 43-yard field goal as time expired, which gave the Colts a 23-20 victory over the visiting and their seventh A.F.C. South title in eight years. The Colts (10-6) reached the postseason for the ninth straight year, tying the mark Dallas set from 1975 to 1983. They will host on Saturday in a rematch of last year’s A.F.C. championship game.

¶Arian Foster rushed for 180 yards and 2 touchdowns as the ended the Jaguars’ playoff hopes with a 34-17 win in Houston. Jacksonville (8-8) needed a victory and a Colts loss to make the playoffs, but could not overcome the absence of its top two offensive players: quarterback David Garrard had finger surgery Thursday and running back Maurice Jones-Drew sat out with a right knee injury. The Texans (6-10) won for the second time in their last 10 games amid speculation that Coach Gary Kubiak would keep his job but fire many of his defensive assistants.

Win A.F.C. North

threw two touchdown passes as the Steelers secured a first-round playoff bye with a 41-9 win over the Browns in what might have been the final game for as Cleveland’s coach. Roethlisberger, who rested most of the second half, threw a 56-yard touchdown pass to on his first pass as the visiting Steelers (12-4) built a 31-3 halftime lead. The Browns finished 5-11, and Mangini fell to 10-22 in two seasons. On Monday, he is scheduled to meet with the team president , who may fire him and appoint himself coach.

¶The beat the visiting , 13-7, but failed to get the help they needed to win the A.F.C. North. Baltimore (12-4) needed Pittsburgh to lose to Cleveland, but the Steelers won to make the Ravens a wild-card entrant. “We came in and took care of business, which was to go from 11 to 12,” linebacker said. Baltimore will enter the playoffs on a four-game winning streak, but it faces the prospect of playing all of its postseason games on the road — just as it did the previous two years. Baltimore won its only , after the 2000 season, as a wild-card team. Cincinnati, which won the division last season, finished 4-12. Coach Marvin Lewis, whose contract expired after the loss, will discuss his status on Monday with the owner Mike Brown.

Favre Out, Elway In?

sat out the ’ season-ending loss to the with a concussion and said he was finally ready to end his career. He missed three of his final four games because of injury after starting a league record 297 in a row. “It’s time,” Favre said after watching the Vikings (6-10) lose, 20-13, to finish in last place in the N.F.C. North. “I’m O.K. with it.” Favre acknowledged that some would doubt that he is truly done after he came back from two retirements earlier in his career. And he said he had no regrets about returning for a 20th season, even though he finished with the lowest passer rating of his career (69.9), threw 19 interceptions and was fined $50,000 for failing to cooperate with a league investigation into allegations of tawdry interactions with a game-day hostess when both worked for the Jets in 2008.

¶The lost to the , 33-28, but confirmed that they were negotiating to bring back the Hall of Famer as their top football executive. The Broncos have won just one playoff game since Elway retired in 1999, and have not reached the postseason in five years. They finished 4-12, the first time in the franchise’s 51-year history that the team lost more than 11 games. The rookie Ryan Mathews ran for three touchdowns and Nate Kaeding kicked four field goals for San Diego (9-7).

Coaching Questions

In what might have been their last chance to save Coach Tony Sparano’s job, the lost, 38-7, to the — a fitting end to a dud of a season. Neither Chad Henne nor Tyler Thigpen could do much with the offense as the Dolphins (7-9) fell behind, 38-0. A Dolphins spokesman said any decisions on the coaching staff would be made by the owner Stephen Ross, who did not make the trip. The Patriots (14-2) scored at least 30 points for the eighth straight game.

¶Stephen McGee threw a 4-yard touchdown pass to Jason Witten with 55 seconds left to give the a 14-13 victory over the Eagles in Philadelphia. and nearly every starter did not play; the Eagles (10-6) were already locked into the No. 3 seed. The Cowboys (6-10) were auditioning for jobs, no one more so than the interim coach Jason Garrett. The owner said he wanted to move “real quickly” on hiring a coach, and could have a decision this week.

In Other Games

Despite playing without running back Darren McFadden and defensive tackle Richard Seymour because of injuries, the beat the playoff-bound , 31-10. Host Kansas City (10-6) was outplayed by Oakland (8-8) in every way in its first home loss, but the Chiefs will still host a playoff game next weekend as the A.F.C. West champion. The Raiders dominated from the start, intercepting two Matt Cassel passes and getting seven sacks. It is the first time since 2002, when Oakland went to the Super Bowl, that it did not lose at least 11 games.

¶Alex Smith threw a 59-yard touchdown pass to Vernon Davis in what was probably Smith’s final game with the 49ers, and host San Francisco beat the Cardinals, 38-7. Smith, the No. 1 overall draft pick in 2005, is a free agent. The 49ers (6-10) made the interim coach Jim Tomsula a winner in what will probably be his only game coaching the team. Tomsula was promoted after Mike Singletary was fired last week.

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