THE PITTSBURGH Steelers and Green Bay Packers both qualified for the NFL playoffs with wins yesterday. Next week, they will play for division titles at home.
Dallas clinched the NFC East with a rout of Indianapolis, ending any chance for the Eagles to make the postseason.
The Steelers (10-5) beat Kansas City, 20-12, to secure at least a wild-card berth. They will win the AFC North by defeating Cincinnati next Sunday. The Bengals (9-4-1) host Denver (11-3) tonight.
Green Bay topped Tampa Bay, 20-3, and heads to Lambeau Field for next Sunday's showdown with Detroit for the NFC North crown. Both are 11-4 after the Lions won, 20-14, at Chicago.
With their wins in Week 16, the Falcons (6-9) and Panthers (6-8-1) set up a winner-take-all game for the NFC South next Sunday at Atlanta. Carolina beat Cleveland, 17-13, and Atlanta defeated New Orleans, 30-14.
New England earned an AFC first-round bye with its 17-16 victory at the New York Jets.
Still alive in the AFC are Baltimore (9-6), whose loss to Houston (8-7) also kept the Texans in contention; Kansas City (8-7); and San Diego (9-6), which won Saturday night at San Francisco. The Chargers will be in if they win at Kansas City next weekend.
Buffalo (8-7) lost all chance of ending its NFL-high string of non-playoff appearances, now at 15, by falling at Oakland, 26-24.
The NFC is less muddled. Dallas (11-4) has a two-game lead over Philly (9-6) after routing AFC South champion Indianapolis, 42-7.
Arizona (11-3) was already in heading into last night's game against Seattle. The Seahawks qualified when Dallas won and the Eagles lost.
The Cardinals will take the NFC West with a victory in prime time. That would also give Arizona home-field advantage throughout the conference playoffs.
And remember, the Super Bowl will be played in the Cardinals' stadium Feb. 1.
7 hurt by lightning
Tampa Fire Rescue officials say seven people were taken to the hospital with minor injuries after a lightning strike in a parking lot yesterday near the Buccaneers stadium. A spokesman said it didn't appear that anyone was directly struck by the lightning, which kicked up rocks and gravel and knocked a few people down.