The Panthers end the season on a 4-game winning streak down the stretch, and are the first team since the 2010 Seattle Seahawks to reach the playoffs with a record under .500. They will host the Arizona Cardinals next Saturday in a Wild Card playoff game.
It was Carolina's defense that led the way, as Roman Haper and Tre Boston returned interceptions for touchdowns. Matt Ryan was under pressure all game long, getting sacked 6 times Sunday.
Cam Newton finished 10 of 16 for 114 yards with a touchdown pass, and ran for 51 yards and another score. Jonathan Stewart ran for 49 yards on 13 carries.
Meanwhile, the Green Bay Packers and Detroit Lions have both clinched playoff berths, but battled for the NFC North division title Sunday. Despite re-injuring his left calf in the first half, Aaron Rodgers finished 17 of 22 for 226 yards and 2 touchdowns. At 12-4, the Packers clinched their 4th consecutive NFC North title, and earned a bye in the Wild Card round.
Eddie Lacy tore up the Lions' defense with 100 yards rushing. Rodgers not only found Randall Cobb twice for touchdowns, but ran in for one of his own. After struggling to stop the Packers' offense, the Lions will visit the Dallas Cowboys in the the Wild Card round next Sunday. They will have to do so without DT Ndamukong Suh, who has been suspended for next week's game for stomping on the leg of Rodgers.
In Pittsburgh, the Steelers took down the Cincinnati Bengals 27-17 to earn their AFC North division title since 2010, and 6th since 2000. The Steelers finish the season at 11-5, and will host the Baltimore Ravens in the Wild Card round next Saturday.
Pittsburgh overcame an injury to running back Le'Veon Bell, as Roethlisberger finished 24 of 38 for 317 yards and 2 TDs in the win. Bell hyperextended his knee in the 3rd quarter, but an MRI revealed no ligament damage.
The Bengals will visit the Indianapolis Colts next Sunday in the Wild Card round. The Colts shutout the Bengals 27-0 in their only meeting of the season on October 19th. The Steelers split their season series with the Ravens.