Comeback kid Rodgers leads Packers to the promised land
The Philadelphia Eagles and Green Bay Packers pulled out memorable away victories on Sunday to secure berths in the NFL play-offs.
Philadelphia completed a terrific turnaround under new coach Chip Kelly by beating Dallas 24-22 to win the NFC East division title.
Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers played the role of returning hero, along with Randall Cobb, in the Packers' 33-28 victory at Chicago to capture the NFC North title.
The Eagles will host New Orleans on Saturday while Green Bay are home against San Francisco on Sunday.
The wild card round begins on Saturday with Kansas City at Indianapolis. The early game on Sunday sees San Diego visit Cincinnati.
Philadelphia's Brandon Boykin made an interception in the final two minutes to clinch the Eagles' win. One year after they finished with a woeful 4-12 record, they claimed a division title by winning seven of their final eight games.
Meanwhile, Dallas have lost three straight showdown finales for the NFC East title.
At Chicago, in his first game back from a broken left collarbone, Rodgers threw a 48-yard touchdown pass to Cobb with 38 seconds left to give the Packers the lead.
Rodgers had been out since getting injured in a loss to Chicago on November 4, and Cobb missed the previous 10 games with a knee problem. Still, the Packers edged the arch-rival Bears for the division crown by winning three of their last four games.
"He is the best quarterback in the league," said Packers wide receiver Jordy Nelson, who caught 10 passes for 161 yards. "To be gone for that many weeks and to play as well as he did -- it was great to have him back."
San Diego also completed a rally to get into the post-season, beating Kansas City 27-24 in overtime for their fourth consecutive victory. After Miami and Baltimore lost earlier in the day, the Chargers sealed their spot via Nick Novak's 36-yard field goal with 5:30 left in overtime.
"We didn't play our best game, but teams that are play-off teams find a way to win when you don't play your best and that's what we did today," Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers said.
Kansas City kicker Ryan Succop missed a 41-yard field goal attempt with four seconds left in normal time that would have won the game. Pittsburgh would have taken the play-off spot over San Diego had Succop connected.
AFC West champion Denver, the highest-scoring team in NFL history, earned the No 1 seed in the conference by romping to a 34-14 win at Oakland. New England, the AFC East division winner, will be the second seed and also have a bye next weekend. The Patriots beat Buffalo 34-20.
Barely 12 hours after the NFL's regular season ended, five head coaches were unemployed. Fired yesterday were Washington's Mike Shanahan, Detroit's Jim Schwartz, Minnesota's Leslie Frazier and Tampa Bay's Greg Schiano. The Cleveland Browns didn't even wait that long, dismissing Rob Chudzinski on Sunday night after just one season on the job.
NFL postseason schedule
Saturday, Jan 4 (all times GMT) -- AFC Wild Card Round: Kansas City Chiefs at Indianapolis Colts, 9.35. NFC Wild Card Round: New Orleans Saints at Philadelphia Eagles, 1.10am
Sunday, Jan 5 -- AFC Wild Card Round: San Diego Chargers at Cincinnati Bengals, 6.05. NFC Wild Card Round: San Francisco 49ers at Green Bay Packers, 9.40
Saturday, Jan 11 -- AFC Divisional Round: TBD at New England Patriots, 1.15am. NFC Divisional Round: TBD at Seattle Seahawks, 9.35.
Sunday, Jan 12 -- AFC Divisional Round: TBD at Denver Broncos, 9.40. NFC Divisional Round: TBD at Carolina Panthers, 6.05.
Sunday, Jan 19 -- AFC & NFC Championship Games: Teams and dates TBD
Sunday, Feb 2 -- Super Bowl XLVIII: MetLife Stadium, East Rutherford, New Jersey, 11.30