The NFL's regular season is over, and the playoff picture is complete. Only two spots were up for grabs Sunday -- both in the AFC -- and they were claimed by the New York Jets and Baltimore Ravens. NFC teams were left to jockey for playoff positioning. After the results of Sunday's games, three wild card matchups will be rematches of Week 17 contests.
Tony Romo threw for 311 yards and two touchdowns and the Cowboys defense posted its second shutout in as many weeks, as Dallas thumped Philadelphia, 24-0, to clinch the NFC East and a home date to open the playoffs next weekend. Romo hit on 24-of-34 pass attempts and tossed an interception while Patrick Crayton amassed 99 yards and a touchdown on four catches. Jason Witten hauled in six passes for 76 yards and a score for the Cowboys (11-5), who clinched the NFC's No. 3 seed to set up a rematch between these two teams in Dallas next weekend in the wild card round. Dallas won its second division title in the last three seasons and threw up back-to-back blankings for the first time in franchise history, holding a normally potent Eagles offense to a mere 228 yards.
Aaron Rodgers threw for 235 yards and a touchdown and ran for another score, as the Green Bay Packers dominated the Arizona Cardinals, 33-7, in an NFC playoff preview. The Packers, who had clinched a wild card berth, are locked into the fifth seed and will travel back to Glendale next week to meet the fourth-seeded Cardinals. Ryan Grant also rushed for a score for Green Bay (11-5), which will enter the playoffs having won seven of its last eight. The only loss in that stretch was a one-point setback at Pittsburgh on December 20.
Brett Favre threw four touchdown passes as the Vikings pummeled a listless Giants team, 44-7, to close out the regular- season on a high note and clinch a first-round bye in the playoffs by taking the NFC's No. 2 seed. Favre ended with 316 yards passing on 25-of-31 attempts and notched 30-plus TD passes for the ninth time in his career -- an NFL record -- while going over 4,000 yards passing for a sixth time. Sidney Rice caught six passes for 112 yards and two of those scores while Visanthe Shiancoe totaled 94 yards on seven receptions with a touchdown. Adrian Peterson ran for a score and 54 yards on nine touches for Minnesota (12-4), which only clinched a trip through to the second round of the playoffs by way of Philadelphia's loss to Dallas later in the day. The Vikings had lost three of four prior to Sunday's dismantling of New York to fall out of the driver's seat.
Willis McGahee scored all three touchdowns for Baltimore to get the Ravens into the playoffs with a 21-13 win over the Oakland Raiders. The Ravens (9-7) needed a win to get into the postseason and McGahee put the team on his back with his 167-yard performance on 16 carries, which included a 77-yard touchdown run. Joe Flacco went 11-for-19 with 102 yards while Dannell Ellerbe had an interception and a fumble recovery for Baltimore, which won three of its last four games. Baltimore, a wild card team, will play on the road against New England next week.
Brad Smith ran for 92 yards and a score on only four carries, and the New York Jets crushed the Cincinnati Bengals, 37-0, in the final regular season game at Giants Stadium to clinch the final playoff spot. Thomas Jones and Jerricho Cotchery each added two and one rushing scores, respectively, for the Jets (9-7), who won five of their last six games to earn the AFC's fifth seed and a trip to Cincinnati to take on these same Bengals at 4:30 p.m. (et) on Saturday in the wild card round. Mark Sanchez threw for only 63 yards on 8-of-16 passing, but it was the New York defense that sent the Giants Stadium faithful out with a win, holding the Bengals to just 72 total yards -- seven in the first half.
New England Patriots wide receiver Wes Welker reportedly has a likely tear in his left anterior cruciate ligament, ending his 2009 season just as the team enters the playoffs. Welker was hurt on New England's first possession when he attempted to make a cut following a reception. He limped off the field and was eventually taken to the locker room on a cart. According to a Boston newspaper, Welker is set to undergo more tests Sunday and probably tore the medial collateral ligament in his left knee, as well.
Third-ranked TCU and sixth-ranked Boise State are set to do battle Monday in the Fiesta Bowl. The two schools, both from non-BCS conferences, earned bids to the game after undefeated seasons, and it will be the second consecutive season the two face off in a bowl game. In last year's Poinsettia Bowl, the Horned Frogs held off the Broncos late to earn a 17-16 win. This matchup figures to be a battle of TCU's defense versus Boise State's offense; the Horned Frogs have given up more than 20 points just twice in their 12 games, while the Broncos have been held under 28 points only once.
Florida junior cornerback Joe Haden has announced he will forego his final year of eligibility and declare for the 2010 NFL Draft. Haden was a consensus first-team All-American this season as well as a finalist for the Thorpe Award, given to the nation's top defensive back. The first-team All-SEC pick led the Gators with four interceptions, while contributing 68 tackles, three sacks, 10 pass breakups and two forced fumbles. Haden started all 40 career games that he played, and in 2007 became the first true freshman to ever start at cornerback for Florida. He finishes his career with eight interceptions and 218 tackles.
The University of Southern California has implemented self-imposed sanctions, including a postseason ban this year, on its men's basketball program for violations of NCAA rules. The penalties come as the result of an internal investigation regarding rules violations related to O.J. Mayo, who played for the Trojans during the 2007-08 season before leaving for the NBA. The postseason ban for this year includes the Pac-10 Tournament. Other penalties include a reduction of one scholarship for the 2009-2010 and 2010-2011 academic years; a reduction by one of the number of coaches permitted to engage in off-campus recruiting activities during the summer of 2010, and a reduction in the total number of recruiting days by 20 days for the 2010-2011 academic year. The school's statement on Sunday added that the Trojans will vacate all wins during the 2007-2008 regular season and will also return to the NCAA money it received through the Pac-10 Conference for its participation in the 2008 NCAA Tournament.