CINCINNATI (AP) — Carson Palmer threw four touchdown passes during a near-perfect performance in the swirling snow, ending the Chargers’ run of four straight AFC West titles.
The Chargers (8-7) froze up in their coldest game in nearly three years, repeatedly self-destructing on a raw, windy evening. The loss gave the division title to Kansas City, which beat Tennessee 34-14 earlier in the day.
It was only San Diego’s second loss in its last 22 games in December.
Palmer, a Southern California kid, led the Bengals (4-11) to their second straight win with a cast of reserve receivers. Two of his touchdown passes went to Jerome Simpson, including a 59-yarder in the fourth quarter. Palmer finished with a career-best passer rating of 157.2 — perfect would be 158.3.
Patriots 34, Bills 3
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — The New England Patriots clinched the top seed in the AFC playoffs Sunday thanks to Tom Brady’s three touchdown passes in a 34-3 rout over a familiar pushover, the Buffalo Bills.
The Patriots (13-2) rolled to their seventh straight victory in winning the AFC East division and beating the Bills (4-11) for the 15th game in a row dating to 2003. New England is 20-1 in its past 21 meetings against Buffalo.
Two of Brady’s TD passes went to rookie tight end Rob Gronkowski. Alge Crumpler and Danny Woodhead also scored for the Patriots, who forced seven turnovers.
Brady finished 15 of 27 for 140 yards and set the NFL record for most attempts (319) without an interception. He topped the mark set by Bernie Kosar in the 1990-91 seasons.
Rams 25, 49ers 17
ST. LOUIS — Sam Bradford set an NFL record for completions in a rookie season and his first touchdown pass in four games to put St. Louis to earn a playoff berth next week.
The Rams (7-8) need to win at Seattle (6-9) next week to clinch the NFC West and secure their first playoff berth since 2004.
The loss cost 49ers coach Mike Singletary his job as he was fired later that night after two disappointing seasons.
Troy Smith was benched in the fourth quarter of a loss that eliminated the 49ers (5-10) from playoff consideration in the weak NFC West. Smith passed for 356 yards in the 49ers’ overtime victory over the Rams last month, but did not play the last two games.
Ted Ginn Jr. scored on a 78-yard punt return for San Francisco, his fourth career touchdown return.
James Hall had 1½ sacks for a defense that sacked Troy Smith three times and Alex Smith once, plus got a safety when Troy Smith fumbled a poor shotgun snap in the end zone.
Buccaneers 38, Seahawks 15
TAMPA, Fla. — Josh Freeman threw for 237 yards and a career-best five touchdowns to help Tampa Bay keep its playoff hopes alive.
Kellen Winslow and rookie Mike Williams each had a pair of TD receptions for the Bucs (9-6), who guaranteed themselves a winning record after going 3-13 a year ago in their first season under coach Raheem Morris.
Seattle (6-9) played most of the game without injured quarterback Matt Hasselbeck and lost for the seventh time in nine games.
Amazingly, the Seahawks can still win the NFC West — thus earning a playoff spot with a losing record — by beating the first-place Rams (7-8) at home next Sunday.
Ravens 20, Browns 10
CLEVELAND — Joe Flacco threw two touchdown passes, Baltimore’s defense bottled up Cleveland’s Peyton Hillis, and the Ravens clinched their third straight playoff appearance.
Ed Reed intercepted rookie Colt McCoy twice as the Ravens (11-4) stayed in contention for the AFC North title. They remain tied with Pittsburgh for the division lead with one game left.
Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis promised Hillis would not repeat his 144-yard performance against Baltimore in Week 3, and the big back didn’t, rushing for 35 yards on 12 carries.
McCoy threw three interceptions and the Browns (5-10) did nothing to help embattled coach Eric Mangini, who fell to 10-21 in two seasons and will await a postseason review by president Mike Holmgren.
Packers 45, Giants 17
GREEN BAY, Wis. — Aaron Rodgers threw for 404 yards and four touchdowns in his return from a concussion to lead Green Bay.
The loss leaves the Giants (9-6) clinging to fading playoff hopes and wondering if there was a hangover effect from the previous week’s collapse against Philadelphia. New York’s turnover issues continued, as the Giants lost two fumbles and Eli Manning threw four interceptions.
John Kuhn ran for two touchdowns and caught a pass for a score for the Packers (9-6), who need to beat the Bears in the next weekend to make the playoffs.
Rodgers sat out last Sunday’s loss at New England with his second concussion of the season.
Bears 38, Jets 34
CHICAGO — Jay Cutler threw three touchdown passes, Matt Forte ran for 113 yards and Chicago closed in on a first-round bye.
The Jets (10-5) lost for third time in four games, but clinched their second straight postseason trip under coach Rex Ryan when Jacksonville lost 20-17 in overtime to Washington.
The win was the seventh in eight games for the Bears (11-4), who blew an early 10-point lead and regrouped in the second half after being picked apart by Mark Sanchez early. Now, they’re in good position to lock up that bye, a scenario that seemed unlikely at best when they stumbled into their bye-week break.
Cutler completed 13 of 25 passes for 215 yards, with Johnny Knox catching four for 92 with two touchdowns.
Sanchez was intercepted by Chris Harris with about a minute left, ending the Jets’ comeback bid.
Colts 31, Raiders 26
OAKLAND, Calif. — Peyton Manning threw three touchdown passes and iced the game with a 27-yard keeper in a game that turned out to have little playoff meaning.
The Colts (9-6) allowed Jacoby Ford to return the opening kick for a TD, overcame a pair of interceptions by Manning in the second half and survived four field goals from Sebastian Janikowski, including two from more than 50 yards, to move within a win of clinching the AFC South title for their ninth straight playoff berth.
But when Jacksonville lost earlier, the Colts knew that no matter what happened in this game they could clinch the division with a win at home next week against the Titans or a Jaguars loss at Houston. The Raiders (7-8) were eliminated earlier when the Chiefs beat the Titans.
Redskins 20, Jaguars 17, OT
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Kevin Barnes intercepted David Garrard’s second pass in overtime, setting up Graham Gano’s 31-yard field goal.
Rex Grossman had a touchdown pass early, and Ryan Torain added a 1-yard plunge on fourth down late as the Redskins (6-9) ended a four-game losing streak.
Washington played without several defensive starters, including linebacker Brian Orakpo and safeties Reed Doughty and Kareem Moore, and lost cornerback Carlos Rogers during the game. It didn’t matter. The Redskins stuffed Jacksonville’s running game, pressured Garrard and came up big when it mattered most.
The Jaguars (8-7) have lost two in a row and need help to make the playoffs. They need to win at Houston next week and have Tennessee upset Indianapolis to win the AFC South.
Lions 34, Dolphins 27
MIAMI — Detroit took advantage of two interceptions to score 17 points in the final 4:37. With the comeback, the Lions (5-10) have won three consecutive games for the first time since 2007. The Dolphins (7-8), eliminated from the playoff race last week, finished 1-7 at home to match a franchise low.
Trailing 24-14 with five minutes to go, the Lions forced a punt, and on the first play Jahvid Best turned a short pass from Shaun Hill into a 53-yard touchdown.
Nathan Vasher’s interception set up a 47-yard field goal by Dave Rayner to tie the game with 2:44 remaining. Then came an interception by DeAndre Levy, who zigzagged 30 yards to the end zone for Detroit’s third score in less than 2½ minutes.
Broncos 24, Texans 23
DENVER — Tim Tebow scored on a 6-yard scramble with three minutes left in his first home start to cap Denver’s comeback from a 17-0 halftime deficit.
Matt Schaub was driving the Texans for a go-ahead score when Syd’Quan Thompson picked off a pass deflected by Justin Bannan at the Broncos 27 with just over a minute remaining. The pass was intended for a wide-open Owen Daniels.
The Broncos (4-11) won for the first time since Nov. 14 and avoided a franchise record 12th loss in handing the Texans (5-10) their eighth loss in nine games.
Tebow threw for 308 yards but when it mattered most, he used his legs to give the Broncos their first win since Nov. 14.
PHILADELPHIA — On a bizarre day when the Philadelphia Eagles were snowed out, they celebrated an NFC East championship.
The NFL moved the Vikings at Eagles game from Sunday night to Tuesday because of a blizzard that could dump more than a foot of snow on Philadelphia.
The game — the first on a Tuesday since 1946 — will be played at 8 p.m. EST., and televised nationally by NBC.
Sidelined by the storm, the Eagles went home and watched the Packers beat the Giants 45-17. That gave Philadelphia its first division title since 2006 and sixth in 12 seasons under coach Andy Reid.