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NFL playoff schedule set

Posted by Zuri Berry, Boston.com Staff  January 1, 2012 07:21 PM

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Not one team fighting for a playoff spot in the AFC managed to punch their ticket on their own. Instead, the Cincinnati Bengals (9-7) and Denver Broncos (8-8) dropped games on Sunday and still managed to sneak in.

The Bengals will be the No. 6 seed in the AFC and face No. 3 Houston. The Broncos, winners of the AFC West, will be the No. 4 seed and host the No. 5 Pittsburgh Steelers.

The Patriots, in the second week of the playoffs, will face the lowest-seeded team to emerge from the wild-card round. They can only face Denver, Pittsburgh, or Cincinnati. That game will be 8 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 14, at Gillette Stadium.

Yesterday, the Broncos lost to the Kansas City Chiefs, 7-3, and the Bengals lost to the Baltimore Ravens, 24-16.

Because the Oakland Raiders lost to the San Diego Chargers, 38-26, and the Broncos held a tiebreaker over Oakland, Denver won the AFC West.

The Bengals, which needed to win to secure a wild-card berth or get help, got lots of help. Losses by the New York Jets and Broncos clinched their spot. If the Broncos had won, the Bengals still would've gotten in because of the losses by the Jets and Raiders.

The Atlanta Falcons (10-6), which nailed down the No. 5 seed in the NFC after routing the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 45-24, will visit the New York Giants (9-7) after the Giants beat the Cowboys 31-14 Sunday night for the NFC East title.

The Detroit Lions (10-6), which fell to the No. 6 seed after losing to Green Bay, 45-41, will visit the No. 3-seeded New Orleans Saints in the wild-card round.

The San Francisco 49ers (13-3) clinched the No. 2 seed in the NFC with a win over the St. Louis Rams. Green Bay had already clinched the top seed.

AFC

1. New England Patriots (13-3)
2. Baltimore Ravens (12-4)
3. Houston Texans (10-6)
4. Denver Broncos (8-8)
5. Pittsburgh Steelers (12-4)
6. Cincinnati Bengals (9-7)

NFC

1. Green Bay Packers (15-1)
2. San Francisco 49ers (13-3)
3. New Orleans Saints (13-3)
4. New York Giants (9-7)
5. Atlanta Falcons (10-6)
6. Detroit Lions (10-6)


Wild-card matchups

Saturday
AFC: No. 6 Cincinnati Bengals (9-7) at No. 3 Houston Texans (10-6), 4:30 p.m. ET (NBC)
NFC: No. 6 Detroit Lions (10-6) at No. 3 New Orleans Saints (13-3), 8 p.m. ET (NBC)

Sunday
NFC: No. 5 Atlanta Falcons (10-6) at No. 4 New York Giants, 1 p.m. ET (FOX)
AFC: No. 5 Pittsburgh Steelers (12-4) at No. 4 Denver Broncos (8-8), 4:30 p.m. ET (CBS)

Divisional playoff matchups

Saturday, Jan. 14
AFC: No. 1 New England Patriots (13-3) vs. TBD, 8 p.m. ET (CBS)
NFC: No. 2 San Francisco 49ers (13-3) vs.TBD, 4:30 p.m. ET (FOX)

Sunday, Jan. 15
AFC: No. 2 Baltimore Ravens (12-4) vs. TBD, 1 p.m. ET
NFC: No. 1 Green Bay Packers (15-1) vs. TBD, 4:30 p.m. ET

News, analysis and commentary from Boston.com's staff writers and contributors, including Zuri Berry and Erik Frenz.

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