As the NFL season winds down near the postseason, the clinching took a step up on Christmas Eve. First the Los Angeles Rams sealed the NFC West Division with a 27-23 win over the Tennessee Titans. Jarred Goff's touchdown pass to Cooper Kupp with 11:51 left put the Rams up for good, as they clinched their first NFC West Title since 2003 in St. Louis. Todd Gurley powered the Rams' offense with 118 yards rushing and 158 yards receiving and two touchdowns, as he remains at the top of the NFL MVP conversation. Goff finished with 301 yards passing and four touchdown for the 11-4 Rams, who have one more game at home against the San Francisco 49ers. The loss for the Titans was their third in a row, dropping them to 8-7, and giving the AFC South Division to the Jacksonville Jaguars. Elsewhere in the AFC, the Kansas City Chiefs won the AFC West with a 29-13 win over the Miami Dolphins. Alex Smith threw for 304 yards and a touchdown, while Kareem Hunt ran for 91 yards and a score, giving the Chiefs consecutive division titles for the first time in franchise history. Tyreek Hill chipped in for the high-powered offense with six catches for 109 yards, while Harrison Butker contributed five field goals for the 9-6 Chiefs. The Dolphins fell to 6-9 despite Jay Cutler's 286 yards passing and a touchdown. Miami tried to keep things close in the first half, but two turnovers that led to points kept the Chiefs ahead for good.
Panthers, Saints Clinch Playoff Spots
The Carolina Panthers and New Orleans Saints continue to fight for the NFC South Division Title, but both teams guaranteed themselves a playoff spot on Sunday. First, the Panthers pulled away from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for a 22-19 win at home. Cam Newton ran for a two-yard touchdown run with 35 seconds left, putting the Panthers ahead and putting them back in the postseason. Newton ran for 52 yards to lead Carolina's rushing attack, while also throwing for 160 yards in the win. He led the game-winning drive in the final three minutes by completing 4-of-7 passes for 52 yards on the 59-yard drive. The 11-4 Panthers trailed for most of the second half, but sealed the win after the game-winning touchdown when Kawann Short sacked Jameis Winston. The Bucs fell to 4-11 despite Winston's 367 yards through the air and a touchdown pass. He was sacked six times and fumbled three times in the loss. Meanwhile, the New Orleans Saints got in and made things tougher on the Atlanta Falcons with a 23-13 home win on Sunday afternoon. The Saints clinched their first playoff berth since 2013, as the defense forced two Falcon turnovers, including what is being called the "butt pick" by Marshon Lattimore. That led to Ted Ginn's 54-yard touchdown catch from Drew Brees, as the Saints led the entire way. Mark Ingram added a 26-yard touchdown run for the 11-4 Saints, who remains ahead of Carolina for first place in the NFC South. The loss eliminates the 9-6 Falcons from the division race, but they can clinch a playoff spot with a win over the Carolina Panthers in the regular season finale. Brees did make history in this one by becoming the third player in NFL history to reach 70,000 career passing yards, joining Brett Favre and Peyton Manning.
Seahawks Eliminate Cowboys From Playoff Contention
The Seattle Seahawks spoiled the return of Ezekiel Elliott on Christmas Eve by eliminating the Dallas Cowboys from playoff contention with a 21-12 win at AT&T Stadium. The Seahawks also kept themselves alive in the NFC playoff race, as Justin Coleman returned an interception 30 yards for a score in the third quarter to put his team up for good. Russell Wilson threw for two touchdowns, one to Jimmy Graham and the other to Doug Baldwin, as the Seahawks overcame a rough loss to the Rams at home last week. Wilson did have a career-low 93 yards through the air on the day. Elliott ran for 97 yards on 24 carries in his return from a six-game suspension. Dallas is coming off a 13-win season a year ago, but Dak Prescott threw for two interceptions on Sunday, including his fourth pick-six of the year, as Dallas did not score a touchdown in their elimination game. The Seahawks earned the win despite a season-low 136 total yards, which was their lowest total since compiling 135 yards in a 14-9 win over the St. Louis Rams in 2013. Seattle was eliminated from the NFC West Division race with the Rams' win over the Titans earlier in the day, but can clinch a Wild Card spot with a win over the Arizona Cardinals at home next week, combined with a Falcons' loss to the Panthers.