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NFL finals spots up for grabs

By AAP .
20 December 2013 02:52PM EST

MORE than a dozen teams plunge into the penultimate week of NFL action on Sunday seeking to cement their playoff status.

Denver, led by Peyton Manning, can clinch the AFC West title and a first-round bye with a victory at Houston on Sunday.

The Broncos are tied atop the division with the playoff-bound Kansas City Chiefs, meaning they must bounce back from a surprising loss to San Diego last week.

"We got whipped in a lot of areas," Manning said.

"I would hope that we respond to that loss with a better performance this week."

The Broncos also have home advantage throughout the playoffs in their sights, if Tom Brady and the New England Patriots -- vying to secure the AFC East -- fall to reigning Super Bowl champions Baltimore.

The Chiefs, who finished last in their division in 2012, face a tough home test against the Colts.

Three other teams that finished last or tied for last in their divisions last season are currently tied for first -- Philadelphia in the NFC East and New Orleans and Carolina in the NFC South.

New Orleans and Carolina can go a long way toward settling things when they meet at the Panthers' home in Charlotte.

The Saints halted the Panthers' club-best eight-game winning streak in New Orleans a fortnight ago and a win will give them the NFC South title along with a first-round bye.

A win for the Panthers would assure them of at least a wild card spot.

Seattle, a perfect 6-0 at home, can secure the NFC West title and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs with a home win over Arizona or if the San Francisco 49ers lose to Atlanta in the final Monday night game of the season.

The Chicago Bears have a chance to secure the NFC North title this weekend, but Green Bay and Detroit also remain in a race that could come down to the final week.

Chicago needs a victory at Philadelphia combined with losses by Detroit and Green Bay.

The Packers host Pittsburgh while Detroit host the New York Giants.

The Eagles, meanwhile, can lock up the NFC East with a win over the Bears and a Cowboys loss at Washington.

Cincinnati, trying to maintain control of the AFC North with the surging Ravens breathing down their necks, host Minnesota. If both Cincinnati and Baltimore falter, the Miami Dolphins could earn a playoff berth with a win at Buffalo.

Other games find Tampa Bay at St Louis, Cleveland at the New York Jets, Tennessee at Jacksonville and Oakland at San Diego.

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