December 21, 2014 / 10:38 PM / 4 years ago

Packers, Steelers into playoffs, Patriots earn bye

(Reuters) - The Green Bay Packers and the Pittsburgh Steelers booked their places in the playoffs after victories on Sunday while the New England Patriots earned a bye in the first round of the postseason.

Dec 21, 2014; Tampa, FL, USA; Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (12) walks to the field before the Green Bay Packers beat the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 20-3 at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: David Manning-USA TODAY Sports

The Packers gained their berth with a 20-3 win at the Tampa Bay Buccaneers but they will have to wait until next week to see if they can clinch the NFC North title.

Green Bay will face divisional rivals the Detroit Lions in the final week of the regular season with both teams on 11-4 records ahead of the showdown.

The Lions, who are also assured a playoff place, beat the Chicago Bears 20-14.

Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers completed 31 of 40 passes while throwing for 318 yards and a touchdown and running back Eddie Lacy rushed for 99 yards including a 44-yard touchdown run.

The Steelers, six-time Super Bowl winners, have been absent from the postseason for the past two seasons but Mike Tomlin’s team ensured they will be in the mix this year thanks to a 20-12 win over the Kansas City Chiefs.

Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger directed the Steelers (10-5) to their third consecutive win, passing for 220 yards and a touchdown.

The Patriots had already wrapped up the AFC East title before Sunday’s game at the New York Jets but they secured a bye and possible home field advantage throughout the playoffs with a 17-16 win.

New England will have home field advantage if the Denver Broncos lose to the Cincinnati Bengals on Monday or if the Patriots win their final regular season game at home to the Buffalo Bills.

The Patriots struggled in the first two quarters with quarterback Tom Brady sacked four times and they trailed 10-7 at the interval. But a one-yard touchdown run by Jonas Gray in the fourth quarter proved to be the difference.

The Houston Texans (8-7) kept their slim playoff hopes alive with a 25-13 win over the Baltimore Ravens, who now need other results to go their way to have any hope of progressing.

Randy Bullock converted a franchise record six field goals and running back Arian Foster threw a touchdown pass in the second quarter for Houston.

The New Orleans Saints are out of the playoff picture after losing 30-14 at home to NFC South rivals the Atlanta Falcons.

The Falcons will now take on the Carolina Panthers, who beat Cleveland 17-13, in a ‘winner takes all’ game for the NFC South title.

Cleveland quarterback Johnny Manziel left the Panthers game late in the first half with a hamstring injury and did not return.

Reporting by Simon Evans, editing by Gene Cherry

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