NFL Season ends with a splash

ROB LONGLEY

, Last Updated: 12:17 PM ET

Even at his inspirational best, Kansas City Chiefs coach Herm Edwards would have had difficulty giving this pre-game spin a big enough dose of conviction.

Among the longer of long shots to make the playoffs as the afternoon began, the Chiefs claimed the final spot some four hours after they took care of their own business.

What was shaping up as a mostly anti-climatic final Sunday of the NFL season turned into an absolute delight unless, of course, you are a fan of the Denver Broncos.

The Chiefs most important assignment was a tough enough one -- to knock off the Jacksonville Jaguars. Check that one off, following a 35-30 home win.

As Edwards walked off the field at Arrowhead Stadium, he took a boo at the out-of-town scoreboard where he could see that the less-than-movitated New England Patriots were finishing off the Tennessee Titans. Check two.

Then Edwards and the rest of the Chiefs retired to the locker room where the Cincinnati Bengals could have ended their hopes before things got silly.

Instead, usually steady kicker Shayne Graham was wide right on a last second, 38-yard field goal. Before the Bengals knew what hit them, the Steelers had a 23-17 overtime win. Another check.

Finally, according to the odds anyway, the longest shot of all as a plodding late afternoon turned into early evening.

For the final piece of the puzzle, the Chiefs needed the heavily favoured Denver Broncos to somehow slip to the visiting San Francisco 49ers.

When 26-23 overtime shocker concluded, Edwards had enough checkmarks to cash in a ticket to the post-season.

A full slate of games that was drifting towards ho-hum in the middle of the afternoon -- especially when the Broncos had a 13-3 halftime lead -- ended with serious drama.

With the victory, the Chiefs earned a trip to Indianapolis for one of four wild-card games to kick off next weekend's opening round of the playoffs, Saturday at 4 p.m.

The New York Jets, who earned their way in with a stress-free 23-3 decision over the Oakland Raiders, meet the New England Patriots in the other AFC first-round game Sunday at 1 p.m.

In the NFC, the reeling Dallas Cowboys messed up a chance to win their division when the lost 39-31 to the Detroit Lions.

For those troubles, the Cowboys have more having to travel to Seattle for a primetime meeting on Saturday against the defending conference champion Seahawks, who yesterday took a step towards competent with a 23-7 win over Tampa Bay.

The other NFC contest features one of the league's hottest teams versus one of the worst. The Philadelphia Eagles, winners of five in a row, play host to the New York Giants (2-6 in their past eight) Sunday at 4:30 p.m.

The Chiefs and Jets were the two with the most to gain by wins yesterday but they weren't the only teams to take care of some important business.

The San Diego Chargers had to sweat a little for it, but a 27-20 win over the Arizona Cardinals to capture the AFC's top seed for the first time since 1980.

Led by running back LaDainian Tomlinson and based on their 14-2 record, the Chargers enter the post season as the de facto favourites.

In Baltimore, the Ravens defence came up big against Buffalo Bills quarterback J.P. Losman to scratch out a 19-7 home win to secure the No. 2 seed and second AFC vacation week.

And in Indy, though they still don't look like the Colts of old, quarterback Peyton Manning did enough to command a 27-22 win over Miami and take the AFC's No. 3 seed.

The curtain closer had its share of losers as well -- give a wave ye Bungles of Cincinnati and you too Tony Romo and the Cowboys.

For most of the day, Edwards thought that a season of lost opportunities would land him in the same morass. Instead, he was feeling Mile High.

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PLAYOFF PICTURE

First-round byes

AFC: San Diego, Baltimore.

NFC: Chicago, New Orleans.

Wild-card games

Saturday, Jan. 6

Kansas City at Indianapolis, 4:30 p.m.

Dallas at Seattle, 8 p.m.

Sunday, Jan. 7

N.Y. Jets at New England, 1 p.m.

N.Y. Giants at Philadelphia, 4:30 p.m.

Divisional Playoffs

Saturday, Jan. 13

and Sunday, Jan. 14

Teams and sites TBD

Conference Championships

Sunday, Jan. 21

At highest remainingconference seeds

Teams and sites TBD

Super Bowl

Sunday, Feb. 4

at Miami

AFC vs. NFC Champions, 6 p.m.


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