Carolina, Den­ver wrap up top seeds

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - SPORTS - BY TIM BOOTH

Carolina closed out its re­mark­able sea­son by wrap­ping up home-field ad­van­tage in the NFC. Den­ver turned to Pey­ton Man­ning to take ad­van­tage of New Eng­land’s slip up in the AFC. And Rex Ryan made cer­tain to con­tinue the New York Jets’ play­off drought.

Carolina and Den­ver wrapped up the No. 1 seed play­off seeds in each con­fer­ence by win­ning at home on the fi­nal day of the reg­u­lar sea­son on Sun­day. Carolina routed Tampa Bay 38-10, while Den­ver held off San Diego 27-20 to win the AFC West ti­tle.

New Eng­land will be the No. 2 seed in the AFC af­ter los­ing at Miami, while Ari­zona will have the other bye in the NFC de­spite get­ting routed 36-6 by Seat­tle.

Den­ver’s vic­tory fi­nally set­tled the AFC play­off pic­ture. Cincin­nati is the No. 3 seed and will host AFC North ri­val Pitts­burgh in a wild-card game, while AFC South cham­pion Hous­ton is the No. 4 seed and will host Kansas City, win­ners of 10 straight games.

The NFC play­off pic­ture won’t be fully set­tled un­til af­ter com­ple­tion of the Sun­day night game be­tween Min­nesota and Green Bay. Seat­tle’s blowout win over the Car­di­nals means the Seahawks will avoid a trip to Lam­beau Field to open the play­offs as long as the Packers and Vik­ings don’t fin­ish in a tie. The win­ner be­tween the Vik­ings and Packers will be the No. 3 seed.

Wash­ing­ton, which closed the sea­son with its fourth straight win, is the fourth seed and will host the No. 5 seed.

The high­light of the day was Ryan and the Buf­falo Bills stopped the Jets from making the play­offs and gave the Steel­ers the fi­nal play­off spot in the AFC. The Bills beat the Jets 22-17, while Pitts­burgh knocked off Cleve­land 28-12, the only re­sults that would have got­ten the Steel­ers into the post-sea­son. The Jets have not made the play­offs since 2010.

“I’ve got a lot of friends over there, and I want them to be suc­cess­ful, but not at my ex­pense,” Ryan said.

New Eng­land had a chance at home-field in the AFC but flopped in Miami get­ting beat 2010.

Den­ver strug­gled in the first half against San Diego be­fore in­sert­ing Man­ning in place of Brock Osweiler at quar­ter­back and hold­ing on late for the sev­en­point vic­tory.

Hous­ton also clinched the AFC South with its win over Jack­sonville and will host Kansas City af­ter the Chiefs beat Oak­land for their 10th straight vic­tory.

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