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Texans beat Bengals, Packers rout Vikings

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Texans beat Bengals, Packers rout Vikings

More rematches ahead.

After Green Bay routed Minnesota 24-10 Saturday night, it set up a trip to San Francisco. The 49ers beat the Packers at Lambeau Field to open the season.

The Packers didn't let 2,000-yard rusher Adrian Peterson run over them again. Indeed, Packers fullback John Kuhn had a bigger impact with two touchdowns.

And the Houston Texans are heading back to New England, where their season began to unravel. A 19-13 win over Cincinnati on Saturday in the wild-card round means the Texans have a date next Sunday in Foxborough. Arian Foster, the catalyst in the victory against the Bengals, isn't fazed by facing the AFC East champions, who routed Houston 42-14 last month.

Houston (13-4) lost three of its last four games to blow home-field advantage in the conference, slipping to third overall.

New England (12-4) is a 9 1/2-point favorite.

``I'm not a big believer in momentum,'' Foster said. ``Every Sunday you have to come out and bring your best or you can get beat on any day.''

Adrian Peterson and the Vikings didn't bring their best to Green Bay. One week after Peterson rushed for 199 yards to lift Minnesota into the playoffs, the 2,000-yard runner was held to 99. And Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder was sidelined by an elbow injury; backup Joe Webb couldn't manufacture much offense.

On Sunday, the Beltway will be buzzing. First, AFC North champion Baltimore hosts Indianapolis. Then NFC East winner Washington plays Seattle.

While Houston heads to Foxborough next weekend, AFC West winner Denver (13-3) will host either Baltimore or Indianapolis next Saturday. NFC South champ Atlanta (13-3) gets either the Redskins or Seahawks next Sunday.

Packers 24, Vikings 10

Ten receivers caught passes from Aaron Rodgers, tying a playoff record, with Kuhn scoring on a 9-yarder. DeJuan Harris also had a 9-yard TD run, and Green Bay kept Peterson in check. It was a turnaround from what the star running back did in his last trip to Lambeau, when he rushed for 210 yards.

It was Rodgers' first home playoff victory.

Minnesota's late touchdown was a 50-yard pass to Michael Jenkins.

Next, the Packers get the Niners (11-4-1), who won 30-22 at Lambeau to start the season. San Francisco is a 3-point favorite.

``They're different as well,'' Rodgers said. ``They're a great defense. Very talented offense as well. It's going to be a very tough challenge for us.''

Texans 19, Bengals 13

Foster gained 140 yards, becoming the first player with at least 100 yards rushing in his first three postseason games. He scored on a 1-yard run and also had eight receptions.

``It only takes one week to turn things around in the NFL and we did that,'' said Foster, whose team lost to Minnesota and Indianapolis to slip to the AFC's third seed.

Cincinnati (10-7) gained only 198 yards and had 12 first downs. Its touchdown came on Leon Hall's interception return.

``It's hard to put it into words,'' Hall said. ``It's disappointing. I mean, we had a good year, but it didn't end how we wanted it to and how we planned it to. At the end of the day, they made the plays that won the game for them.''

With a second straight wild-card loss in Houston, the Bengals extended one of the NFL's longest playoff droughts. They haven't won a postseason game since the 1990 season.

They got two field goals from Josh Brown, and Andy Dalton overthrew an open A.J. Green in the end zone late in the fourth quarter.

Along with Foster's touchdown, the Texans got four field goals from Shayne Graham.

Colts (11-5) at Ravens (10-6)

From Ray Lewis' pending retirement to Chuck Pagano's return to Baltimore to the history of these two franchises, this game has all kinds of intriguing story lines.

Lewis announced this week he will end his 17-year career as one of the NFL's premier players, let alone linebackers, after the playoffs. He's hoping for a long run duplicating the 2000 season, when he was Defensive Player of the Year and Super Bowl MVP.

``That moment I walk out of that tunnel Sunday, every person that was a Ravens fan - 1996 to this day - we will all enjoy that moment,'' he said. ``It will probably be one of the glorious moments in my life.''

Pagano spent four seasons coaching defense in Baltimore, then landed the head coaching job in Indy. He missed 12 games while undergoing treatments for leukemia and came back last week in a win over Houston.

Now he's back in Baltimore.

And he knows all about the history of the Colts leaving for Indianapolis in Mayflower moving vans in the middle of the night in 1984.

``Yeah, because when this opportunity presented itself, I remember seeing the paper when I left town,'' Pagano joked. ``I was driving a Mayflower out of town, so I fully understand. They had me in the cab, if I remember right.''

Seahawks (11-5) at Redskins (10-6)

Two streaking teams with sensational rookie quarterbacks, making it three such starters in action Sunday; Andrew Luck leads the Colts.

Washington took its final seven games to grab its division title. QB Robert Griffin III (102.4) had the best single-season rookie passer rating in NFL history; Seattle's Russell Wilson was next at 100.0. Griffin also set a league mark for yards rushing by a rookie QB (815).

Wilson threw 26 TD passes, tying Peyton Manning's NFL rookie record set in 1998.

``He's a playmaker. He's a football player. He makes plays running around, like a video game, buying time for the receivers, taking off with the football himself,'' Redskins veteran linebacker London Fletcher said.

He was talking about Wilson; could have been about Griffin, as well.

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Playoff winners expose Ravens shortcomings

Playoff winners expose Ravens shortcomings

And then there were four.

Four teams remain in the hunt for Super Bowl LI, and this weekend's games showed exactly what it takes to survive and advance this time of year. They also illustrated, quite clearly, how the current Ravens simply don't rise up to that level.

Here are two ways in particular:

* Strong quarterback play

Aaron Rodgers needed less than a minute to move his team into position for a game-winning field goal against Dallas.

Then again, the Cowboys' Dak Prescott needed less than a minute to move his team into position to tie the game moments earlier.

Did the Ravens offense under Joe Flacco this year ever appear capable of pulling off such a feat?

Atlanta's Matt Ryan threw three touchdowns without an interception as the Falcons rolled past Seattle. He averaged 9.1 yards per pass play, above their league-best regular-season average of 8.8. That's what an efficient, potent passing game looks like. The Ravens ranked 26th this year, averaging 6.04 yards per pass play.

[Related: NFL Mock Draft 1.0]

* Playmakers

When Dallas got inside the Packers' 10-yard line in the final four minutes, trailing 28-20, was there any doubt that the ball was going to Dez Bryant? The Packers had to know it. They just couldn't stop it. Bryant reached up with his 6-2, 220-pound frame and hauled in the inside slant that made it 28-26, and then Prescott scored on a quarterback draw for a two-point conversion to tie the game.

Did the Ravens this year ever have such a proven, go-to target near the goal line? If they did, they probably wouldn't have ranked 20th in red zone percentage this year and relied so heavily on kicker Justin Tucker. Too many field goals instead of touchdowns doomed this team.

Aaron Rodgers had to improvise, then made a great throw with an even better catch by Jared Cook to set up the winning field goal. Could the Ravens have pulled off that play this year?

When the Steelers were trying to close out their win over the Chiefs, they opted to throw a pass, knowing an incompletion would stop the clock and possibly give the ball back to the Chiefs. It carried some risk, but Ben Roethlisberger found Antonio Brown for a game-clinching first down.

The Steelers could have opted to run the ball with Le'Veon Bell, who piled up 170 yards on 30 carries. That's what a commitment to the run looks like.

Brown, Bryant and Julian Edelman all finished with more than 100 receiving yards.

Each of these teams has playmakers, and they all stepped up.

Related: Ray Lewis tells Tom Brady to quit complaining 

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AFC North: Steelers' Antonio Brown posts, deletes video of Mike Tomlin insulting Patriots

AFC North: Steelers' Antonio Brown posts, deletes video of Mike Tomlin insulting Patriots

Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown has created a new firestorm heading into the Patriots-Steelers AFC championship game, by posting a Facebook Live video from the locker room in which coach Mike Tomlin referred to the Patriots as “a--h----s”.

Tomlin was giving his postgame address to the team after the Steelers’ 18-16 playoff victory over the Chiefs.

While Tomlin was speaking, Brown was streaming the locker room scene on Facebook, unbeknownst to Tomlin.

The coach talked about the Patriots having a head start in preparation, because they won their divisional game Saturday night, while the Steelers-Chiefs game did not end until late Sunday night in Kansas City.

“When you get to this point in the journey, man, not a lot needs to be said,” Tomlin said in the video, which Brown has since deleted from social media.

“Let’s say very little moving forward. Let’s start our preparations. We just spotted these a--h---s a day and a half. They played yesterday. Our game got moved to tonight. We’re going to touch down at 4 o’clock in the f---king morning. So be it. We’ll be ready for their a--. But you ain’t got to tell them we’re coming.

“Keep a low profile, and let’s get ready to ball like this up again here in a few days and be right back at it. That’s our story.”

Well, it’s a little late for the Steelers to keep a low profile now, after Brown’s video went viral.

This is why most coaches don’t like cameras in the locker room immediately after games. The statements are candid. The concept of what is said in the locker room, staying in the locker room, is lost.

Now Tomlin, Brown, and the Steelers will have to deal with the fallout. But it will only raise the AFC showdown, with a trip to the Super Bowl at stake.

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