DENVER — Peyton Manning threw for 304 yards and three touchdowns as Denver sewed up the No. 1 seed and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs Sunday with its 11th consecutive victory, a 38-3 drubbing of Kansas City.
Manning threw a pair of scoring passes to Eric Decker in the final 5:32 of the first half to stake the Broncos (13-3) to a 21-3 lead en route to claiming the top seed, which was made possible when Houston lost at Indianapolis earlier in the day.
Demaryius Thomas had seven receptions for 122 yards and a score to cap Manning’s ninth three-TD game and give Denver its longest winning streak since the 1998 club won 13 straight on its way to a second straight Super Bowl championship.
The Chiefs (2-14) grabbed the No. 1 overall pick in next year’s NFL draft with another woeful offensive performance. Brady Quinn threw for 49 yards on 7-of-16 passing and the league’s lowest-scoring team mustered only eight first downs and 119 total yards to end the season on a four-game losing streak.
Colts 28, Texans 16: Rookie Andrew Luck threw a pair of touchdown passes and host Indianapolis rode a wave of emotion in coach Chuck Pagano’s return to the sideline to derail Houston’s bid for a No. 1 overall seed.
Deji Karim returned a kickoff 101 yards as the Colts (11-5) turned in an inspired effort in Pagano’s first game back since undergoing three months of treatment for leukemia.
Luck’s 70-yard scoring pass to fellow rookie T.Y. Hilton with 11:22 to play opened a 12-point lead and supplied the dagger for the Texans (12-4), who lost three of their final four and fell to 0-11 all-time in Indianapolis.
Matt Schaub threw for 276 yards and two interceptions for Houston, which dropped to the No. 3. The Colts were already locked into the No. 5 seed and will play next week at Baltimore — the team from which they hired away Pagano in the offseason to be their head coach.
Giants 42, Eagles 7: Eli Manning threw four of his career-high five touchdowns in the first half, but host New York was eliminated from postseason consideration after Chicago defeated Detroit.
The Giants (9-7) held up their end of the bargain in Week 17, but needed losses by Chicago, Minnesota and Dallas in order to secure the sixth seed in the NFC playoffs. After being outscored 67-14 in its last two contests, New York didn’t waste any time snapping a five-game home losing skid to the Eagles (4-12) by sending them to their 11th loss in 12 games.
Ahmad Bradshaw, who amassed 148 yards from scrimmage, rumbled in from a yard out in the second quarter before Victor Cruz’s 24-yard touchdown gave New York a 35-7 lead. Michael Vick threw for just 197 yards with a touchdown and an interception.
Vikings 37, Packers 34: Adrian Peterson became the seventh running back to reach the 2,000-yard plateau and fellow Pro Bowler Blair Walsh kicked a 29-yard field goal as time expired to send host Minnesota into the postseason.
Peterson recorded both a rushing and receiving touchdown to go along with his 199 yards, but his season total of 2,097 fell just short of breaking Hall of Famer Eric Dickerson’s 1984 single-season mark (2,105). Christian Ponder tossed three touchdown passes for the Vikings (10-6), who won their fourth straight to set up a rematch against third-seeded Green Bay (11-5) at Lambeau Field.
Aaron Rodgers threw for 365 yards and tossed at least four touchdowns for the fourth time this season. Greg Jennings reeled in a pair while fellow wideouts Jordy Nelson and James Jones also found the end zone as the Packers suffered just their second loss in 11 outings.
49ers 27, Cardinals 13: Colin Kaepernick tossed a pair of touchdown passes to Michael Crabtree as host San Francisco secured its second consecutive NFC West title.
Kaepernick threw for 276 yards, with Crabtree accounting for 172 of them on eight receptions. Frank Gore set a franchise record with his 51st rushing touchdown for the 49ers (11-4-1), who could seize the No. 2 seed in the NFC playoffs should Green Bay fall to Minnesota on Sunday.
Michael Floyd had a season-best eight catches for 166 yards with a touchdown for the Cardinals (5-11), who have dropped 11 of their last 12 overall — and seven straight on the road.
Bengals 23, Ravens 17: Andy Dalton went 10-of-15 for 78 yards and a touchdown in limited action and Carlos Dunlap ran an interception back for a score as Cincinnati knocked off visiting Baltimore.
The Ravens decided to rest most of their regulars. Joe Flacco attempted only eight passes before yielding to Tyrod Taylor, who passed for 149 yards and rushed for 65 and a score.
The Bengals elected to sit running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis (hamstring) and only threw two passes A.J. Green’s way before giving way to the backups.
Buccaneers 22, Falcons 17: Rookie Doug Martin rushed for 142 yards and a touchdown as Tampa Bay snapped a five-game losing streak and handed NFC South champion Atlanta its only home loss of the season.
Tampa Bay’s Josh Freeman passed for 222 yards and a touchdown, becoming the franchise leader for touchdowns in a season (27) and career (78).
Despite having clinched the NFC’s top seed in the playoffs, the Falcons (13-3) played their starters throughout. Matt Ryan passed for 238 yards and his franchise-record 32nd touchdown pass of the season but Atlanta managed only 278 total yards, its second-lowest total of the season.
Mike Williams caught six passes for 65 yards and a score for the Bucs (7-9).
Panthers 44, Saints 38: DeAngelo Williams rushed for a season-high 210 yards and two touchdowns and Mike Tolbert scored on three 1-yard runs as visiting Carolina ended the season with its first four-game win streak since 2008.
Cam Newton passed for 248 yards for the Panthers, who racked up season highs for points and total yards (530). The Saints surpassed a dubious NFL record by allowing 7,042 total yards this season.
Drew Brees passed for 396 yards and four touchdowns — becoming the first player in NFL history with three 5,000-yard seasons and the first with more than 15,000 passing yards in a three-year span.
Bills 28, Jets 9: Brad Smith scored a back-breaking 4-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter as host Buffalo snapped a three-game losing streak in their season finale.
C.J. Spiller totaled 131 all-purpose yards, including a 66-yard touchdown reception from Ryan Fitzpatrick in the second quarter to pace the Bills (6-10). Fitzpatrick finished 12-for-26 for 225 yards, while Stevie Johnson caught six passes for 111 yards.
A week after being benched, Mark Sanchez returned to the lineup and his mistake-filled ways for New York (6-10). Sanchez threw an interception which Bryan Scott returned 20 yards for a touchdown to give Buffalo a 7-3 lead in the first quarter, and he also lost his 16th fumble of the season. Sanchez finished 17-for-35 for 205 yards.
Titans 38, Jaguars 20: Darius Reynaud returned two punts for touchdowns and Zach Brown brought back a pair of interceptions for scores as host Tennessee routed AFC South rival Jacksonville in the season finale.
The Titans (6-10) handed the Jaguars (2-14) their fifth consecutive loss with a stunning sequence, scoring 28 unanswered points in a span of 4:45 bridging halftime without running a single offensive play.
Chris Johnson rushed for 56 yards and a touchdown to go over 1,200 yards for the fourth time in his career as Tennessee avenged a 24-19 loss in Jacksonville on Nov. 25 despite getting outgained 375-221.
Bears 26, Lions 24: Jay Cutler passed for 257 yards and a touchdown and the defense forced four turnovers as visiting Chicago edged Detroit.
Matt Forte rushed for a touchdown and totaled 124 yards from scrimmage while Earl Bennett caught five passes for 109 yards and a score for the Bears (10-6), who need the Green Bay Packers to beat the Minnesota Vikings later Sunday in order to clinch a wild card spot.
Calvin Johnson made five catches for 72 yards to finish 36 yards shy of 2,000 on the season. Matthew Stafford passed for 272 yards and three touchdowns but was intercepted once and lost two fumbles for the Lions (4-12).
Steelers 24, Browns 10: Ben Roethlisberger threw two of his three touchdown passes in the second half as host Pittsburgh ended its season by snapping a three-game losing streak.
Roethlisberger was 15-of-23 for 134 yards for Pittsburgh (8-8), which had only 212 total yards but turned two Cleveland fumbles into TDs.
Thad Lewis completed 22 of 32 passes for 204 yards with a touchdown and an interception in his NFL debut for the Browns (5-11), who lost their final three games overall and finished 1-7 on the road.
Chargers 24, Raiders 21: Philip Rivers passed for a pair of touchdowns and Micheal Spurlock ran a kickoff back 99 yards for a score as San Diego held off visiting Oakland to end the season with a victory.
Antonio Gates and Danario Alexander each caught a touchdown pass for the Chargers (7-9), who won three of their last four.
Terrelle Pryor made his first career start at quarterback for the Raiders and went 13-of-28 for 150 yards, two touchdowns and one interception and also ran for 49 yards and a score. Darren McFadden rushed for 57 yards on 19 carries for Oakland (4-12), which lost eight of its final nine games.