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Panthers clinch NFL playoff spot

By AAP .
23 December 2013 09:24PM EST

CAROLINA, Cincinnati and New England secured NFL playoff berths Sunday while at least three other spots will not be decided until next weekend's final regular-season games.

Cam Newton flipped a 14-yard touchdown pass to Domenik Hixon with 23 seconds to play to give Carolina a 17-13 victory over visiting New Orleans and put the Panthers in the playoffs for the first time since 2008.

"It wasn't pretty, but we got it done," Newton said.

Cincinnati's Andy Dalton threw for 366 yards and four touchdowns as the host Bengals ripped Minnesota 42-14.

New England routed Baltimore 41-7, inflicting the Ravens' worst home loss to dim the playoff hopes of the reigning Super Bowl champions, whose loss let Cincinnati clinch a division crown.

Cincinnati and New England joined Denver, Indianapolis and Kansas City in the American Conference playoffs while only Carolina and Seattle were set in the National Conference.

The Chicago Bears can win the NFC North division title and a playoff berth by beating Philadelphia later on Sunday while San Francisco can secure an NFC spot by beating Atlanta at home on Monday.

Next Sunday's Dallas-Philadelphia winner and either New Orleans or Arizona will claim the last NFC berths while San Diego, Miami, Baltimore and Pittsburgh fight for the last AFC position.

Carolina avenged a 31-14 road loss to the Saints two weeks ago and can claim the NFC South division crown and a first-round playoff bye with a win next Sunday at Atlanta.

New Orleans could still have clinched a playoff spot with an Arizona loss but the Cardinals upset host Seattle 17-10. Michael Floyd's 31-yard touchdown catch with 2:13 remaining ended the Seahawks' two-year, 14-game home win streak.

Buffalo's Fred Jackson ran for a touchdown and Dan Carpenter kicked four field goals to give Buffalo a 19-0 home victory over Miami to hurt the Dolphins' playoff bid.

Peyton Manning threw four touchdown passes in a 37-13 Denver win at Houston to give him 51 touchdown passes for the season, breaking the previous NFL one-season record of 50 by New England's Tom Brady from 2007.

The Broncos (12-3) clinched the AFC West crown and a first-round playoff bye with the victory and Kansas City's 23-7 home loss to Indianapolis.

Dallas will host Philadelphia next Sunday to decide the NFC East division champion and a playoff berth after Tony Romo rallied the Cowboys to a 24-23 victory at Washington.

San Diego kept playoff hopes alive with a 26-13 triumph over Oakland as did Pittsburgh a 38-31 victory at Green Bay but the Detroit Lions were ousted from playoff contention with a 23-20 over-time loss at the Giants.

In games involving teams with no playoff hope, St Louis defeated Tampa Bay 23-13, the New York Jets downed Cleveland 24-13 and Tennessee beat Jacksonville 20-16.

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