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NFL Football 2013: 5 Things We Learned From Week 16

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Week 16 of the 2013 NFL season saw three more teams clinch playoff spots. Here are five things we learned on Sunday:

Tony Romo Wins Games Late, Too

Tony Romo
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Down 23-17 to listless Washington late in the game, the Dallas Cowboys (8-7) drove 87 yards for a go-ahead touchdown which saved the day — and their season. The man behind the comeback? Tony Romo, the much-maligned quarterback who threw a 10-yard touchdown pass to DeMarco Murray on a fourth-and-goal with 1:08 remaining. It was only a week ago that Romo’s late interceptions, some questionable play-calling and a porous defense caused Dallas to squander a 23-point lead to Green Bay. The victory set up a winner-take-all match between the Cowboys and Eagles for the NFC East title next Sunday night in Dallas.

The Patriots & Bengals Are Playoff-Bound

Pats Bengals
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When Buffalo (6-9) completed its 19-0 whitewash of Miami (8-7) on Sunday, the Patriots (11-4) were free to relax because they were AFC East champs regardless of the outcome of their game against the Ravens (8-7). So much for relaxing: New England dominated Baltimore, 41-7, thanks to four turnovers by the Ravens. The title was business-as-usual for Pats’ coach Bill Belichick, who won his 11th division title.

The Cincinnati Bengals (9-5) clinched the AFC North title and a playoff spot courtesy of their 42-14 pasting of the Minnesota Vikings (4-10-1) coupled with the Ravens’ loss to the Patriots. It’s the Bengals’ third consecutive playoff berth and first division title since 2009.

The Panthers Are Back in the Playoffs

Cam Newton
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Carolina (11-4) claimed a playoff spot for the first time since 2008 thanks to the heroics of quarterback Cam Newton, who threw a 14-yard touchdown pass to Domenik Hixon with 23 seconds left to give the Panthers a 17-13 win over the New Orleans Saints (10-5). Newton can lead Carolina to the NFC South title and a first-round playoff bye with a win next Sunday at Atlanta. Panthers fans who haven’t had a rooting interest in the post-season over the past four years may have to be reminded to pay attention in January. It’s only the franchise’s second playoff berth in eight years.

Peyton Manning Is the New Single-Season TD Pass King

Peyton Manning
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NFL fans should have seen this coming when Peyton Manning threw seven touchdown passes on opening night in September. The Denver quarterback set a new single-season record for touchdown passes when he tossed his 51st scoring pass of the season in the Broncos’ 37-13 rout over Houston (2-13). The 25-yard strike to Julius Thomas with 4:28 remaining allowed Manning to eclipse Tom Brady’s 50 TD passes for the Patriots in 2007. It also helped Denver clinch the AFC West and guaranteed the team a first-round bye in the post-season. As impressive as the TD pass record is, Manning may want to remember that Brady’s big year ended with a loss in the Super Bowl.

The NFC Central Is Still Up for Grabs

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The Chicago Bears (8-7) had everything to play for on Sunday night in Philadelphia, while the game meant nothing to the Eagles (9-6). Final score: Philadelphia 54, Chicago 11. Wait…What? Already aware that they must beat Dallas next week to make the playoffs regardless, the Eagles routed the Bears and kept them from clinching the NFC North. Chicago must now tie or beat the Green Bay Packers (7-7-1) at Soldier Field next week to make the playoffs. The Detroit Lions (7-8), who were 6-3 before losing five of their last six games, were eliminated from playoff contention via a 23-20 overtime loss to the New York Giants.

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