Jay Cutler threw for 257 yards and a touchdown and helped seal the game with a late 19-yard run for the Bears in their 26-24 win over the Lions, but their play-off hopes were later crushed. Chicago (10-6) still needed Minnesota to lose to Green Bay to reach the post-season, but the Vikings edged the Packers 37-34 to earn a wild card.
Adrian Peterson rushed for 26 yards on the final drive, getting Minnesota (10-6) within straightforward field-goal range for rookie kicker Blair Walsh to send the Vikings into the play-offs for the first time since the 2009 season. Peterson finished with 2,097 yards – eight short of Eric Dickerson's single-season record of 2,105. Green Bay and Minnesota will meet again next weekend in a wild-card game.
Washington were crowned NFC East champions and claimed the last NFC berth courtesy of a 28-18 victory over Dallas in their winner-takes-all regular-season finale.
Defeat would have sent the Redskins out of the post-season, but quarterback Robert Griffin III ran for 63 yards and a touchdown while fellow rookie Alfred Morris found the end zone three times and finished with 200 yards. The result earned Washington (10-6) their first division title since 1999 and meant the Cowboys (8-8) missed the play-offs for the third year running.
In Chuck Pagano's first game back as coach since starting treatment for leukaemia in September, the Colts (11-5) headed into the play-offs as the number five seeds by beating the Texans (12-4) and costing them the chance of a first-round bye.
NFC wild card: Minnesota Vikings (10-6) at Green Bay Packers (11-5) (Sunday, 1am). Sunday – AFC wild card: Indianapolis Colts (11-5) at Baltimore Ravens (10-6), 6.0pm. NFC wild card: Seattle Seahawks (11-5) at Washington Redskins (10-6), 9.30.