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Redskins win NFC East, Broncos get top seed in AFC

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Redskins win NFC East, Broncos get top seed in AFC

RG3 and the Washington Redskins are heading to the playoffs as NFC East champions.

By winning their seventh straight game, the Redskins rolled to their first division title in 13 years with a 28-18 victory over the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday night. Next up for Robert Griffin III & Co.: a home playoff matchup next Sunday with the Seahawks - the third straight postseason game for Washington against Seattle.

``It's just a mindset change,'' the rookie quarterback said. ``When you have all these guys coming to work every day, putting it on the line, we knew we couldn't afford to lose one game, we made sure we didn't''

Thanks to Houston's late-season slump, Denver and New England will have byes when the AFC playoffs begin next week.

The Texans fell from first to third in the conference Sunday when they lost 28-16 at Indianapolis, which welcomed back coach Chuck Pagano after nearly three months of treatments for leukemia.

AFC West champion Denver won its 11th straight game, 38-3 over Kansas City to secure the top seed. New England blanked Miami 28-0 for the second spot.

Minnesota edged Green Bay 37-34 to grab the final NFC wild card, sinking the Packers to the third seed. Those teams will meet again next Saturday night at Lambeau Field.

The other NFC matchup will have Seattle (11-5), which beat St. Louis 20-13, at Washington on Sunday at 4:30 p.m. ET.

Cincinnati (10-6) will be at Houston on Saturday at 4:30 p.m. ET, and Indianapolis (11-5) goes to at Baltimore (10-6) on Sunday at 1 p.m. in the AFC wild-card rounds.

The divisional round games will be hosted by Denver on Saturday, Jan. 12, followed by San Francisco (11-4-1) at night. On Sunday, Jan. 13, Atlanta (13-3) will host the early game, followed by New England (12-4).

Peyton Manning threw for three touchdowns as Denver (13-3) routed the Chiefs. New England got the second seed despite having the same record as Houston because it beat the Texans, who lost three of their final four games.

Adrian Peterson had 199 yards against the Packers, finishing with 2,097 - Dickerson's single-season rushing mark in 2,105. But it was rookie kicker Blair Walsh who won it with a 29-yard field goal as time expired.

``Ultimately we got the `W,''' Peterson said. ``I told myself to come into this game focused on one thing, and that's winning.''

Green Bay would have been seeded second in the NFC by beating Minnesota.

``The road got a little tougher having to play on opening weekend, but we've got a home game and that's why you win the division,'' Aaron Rodgers said. ``We get to go back home, and the game will be different. They won't have home-crowd advantage, and hopefully that will make a difference.''

Baltimore Pro Bowl safety Ed Reed is looking forward to a reunion with Pagano. He wishes it would come a little later in the postseason.

``Chuck's like a dad to me,'' Reed said ``He means a lot to me. I would have much rather seen them in the AFC championship game than the first game.''

But Reed will see him next week at Baltimore.

The Ravens had a chance to move up to the AFC's third seed with a win and a New England loss. But Baltimore lost at Cincinnati as both teams played backups for much of the game.

Pagano coached the Ravens' secondary for three seasons and was promoted to coordinator last year. Players and coaches in Baltimore have kept in touch, offering encouragement as he fought through the cancer treatments.

``Going back to Baltimore, obviously there's some familiarity there,'' Pagano said. ``We had four great years there as a family. It's a top-notch organization, you know, really good football club. It's a great challenge and they have a great team and they have great players all over the place.''

The Colts were 2-14 last season and chose quarterback Andrew Luck with the top selection in the draft. Luck and offensive coordinator Bruce Arians, who stepped in as interim coach with Pagano sidelined, led the turnaround.

Next week, Pagano goes up against former boss John Harbaugh.

``I love his family, and he's one of my closest personal friends in coaching,'' Harbaugh said. ``What he's been through is phenomenal, but we're all competitors so that gets set aside.''

Houston beat Cincinnati in the opening round of last year's playoffs.

``I think it will be good,'' said Bengals QB Andy Dalton, who grew up in suburban Houston. ``We played there last year and know the atmosphere and what it's going to be like. The experience last year will definitely help us.''

The defending Super Bowl champion Giants are out of contention. When Chicago beat Detroit 26-24, the Giants (9-7) were eliminated, even though they routed Philadelphia 42-7.

``It hurts,'' said Eli Manning. ``Each year you want to make the playoffs to give yourself an opportunity to win a championship; 9-7 last year was good enough. It wasn't good enough this year and we knew it wouldn't be.''

Minnesota's win eliminated Chicago.

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Keenan Questions?: 5 observations from Day 3 of Ravens training camp

Keenan Questions?: 5 observations from Day 3 of Ravens training camp

OWINGS MILLS – Five observations from Day 3 of Ravens training camp on Saturday, the first practice with players wearing pads:

1. Running back Terrance West looks slimmer, quicker, and impressive both running and pass catching.

West had another strong day of practice, and got plenty of reps with both Kenneth Dixon (knee) and Lorenzo Taliaferro (foot) still out. Justin Forsett, Buck Allen, and Dixon are considered locks to make the 53-man roster. But West, a former Towson star and Baltimore product, could finally be realizing his potential after disappointing stops with the Browns and Titans. West could force the Ravens to keep four running backs, in addition to fullback Kyle Juszczyk.

2. Keenan Reynolds needs to step up his performance at wide receiver.

A host of wide receivers are performing better than Reynolds, who is trying to transition from Navy quarterback to NFL wide receiver. Reynolds had a couple of drops the first three days of practice, and has been unable to get open consistently. Meanwhile, wide receiver Chris Matthews had another strong day, as did Michael Campanaro. Reynolds can help the Ravens as a returner, but they have other players who can fill that role. For Reynolds to secure a roster spot, he needs to show he can help the Ravens as a receiver. Otherwise, the Ravens will face a difficult decision regarding Reynolds, a local fan favorite.

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3. The way Kamalei Correa and Zach Orr are performing, the Ravens may not need to sign a veteran inside linebacker.

Correa had a sparkling one-handed interception Saturday, showing his hands and athleticism. Orr has been reading plays quickly and keeping himself around the football. Even if Correa wins the job at inside linebacker next to C. J. Mosley, there could be reps for Orr as well, giving the Ravens a promising young combo.

4. Saturday was not a crisp day for the offense.

The defense was the better unit, as the offense looked sloppy at times. There were a couple of bad snaps out of the shotgun from center Jeremy Zuttah, and a few false starts from the offensive line. There is plenty of time for cleanup before Week 1, but it’s not what the coaches want to see.

5. QB Joe Flacco and TE Dennis Pitta continued to look good.

Saturday made three straight days of practice for Flacco with no noticeable limping or discomfort. Flacco may be wearing a red jersey, but there have been no red flags regarding his surgically-repaired knee. Meanwhile, Pitta took a solid hit from Orr while attempting to make a catch, but Pitta jumped right to his feet. This was another good day for Pitta in his comeback from his second major hip injury.

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DT Jernigan leaves practice early, WR Moore does not practice

DT Jernigan leaves practice early, WR Moore does not practice

OWINGS MILLS – Ravens defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan left Saturday’s practice early, while rookie wide receiver Chris Moore did not practice.  Coach John Harbaugh did not meet with the media after practice, and no reason was immediately given for either absence. ESPN reported that Jernigan suffered a minor rib area strain that was not considered serious.

Cornerback Jerraud Powers took the field for this first training camp practice, after finally passing the conditioning test. Powers was the lone player remaining who had not passed the test.

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In addition to the five players on the PUP list, tight end Crockett Gillmore (hamstring) and running back Kenneth Dixon (knee) did not practice.

In a roster move, the Ravens signed punter Michael Palardy to fill their open roster spot. Sam Koch, a Pro Bowl selection in 2015, is firmly entrenched as the Ravens’ punter. However, Palardy can take practice reps while the Ravens work their punt returners, reducing some of the strain on Koch’s leg.

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Why Yanda knows offensive success hinges on ability to protect Flacco

Why Yanda knows offensive success hinges on ability to protect Flacco

OWINGS MILLS - One of Marshal Yanda’s top priorities is to make sure the offensive line does its best to keep Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco healthy, unlike 2015, when Flacco suffered a season-ending knee injury. Having made five straight Pro Bowls as a right guard, Yanda is beginning his 10th NFL season, and his ninth season with Flacco as his quarterback. Yanda knows that much of the Ravens’ offensive success depends on Flacco staying healthy.

“We haven’t really talked about it specifically,” Yanda said. “But obviously, you know as an offensive line, we talk about it, and you coach it. You’re going to keep your guys as far away from the quarterback as possible. Obviously, there is probably more emphasis this year with the knee.”

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When Flacco sees game action for the first time this season, Yanda doesn’t expect his quarterback to play tentatively due to his knee.

“He’s going to have to make his read,” Yanda said. “We have certain plays where he is going to be on the move, no matter what. We know about it: it is conscious in my mind; it is conscious in the offensive line’s mind and his mind, too. I feel like he just has to play through that. I had a knee (injury) once before, and he just has to get reps and get comfortable with the way it is feeling now. It will always feel a little different. That is just normal. It will continue to get normal as he keeps playing.”