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NFL Week 16: Bruce Arians may be out of a job again, in a good way

Arians, fired by Pittsburgh after last season, gets Colts to playoffs as interim coach just as Coach Chuck Pagano is set to return. Bengals are in too; Steelers out.

December 24, 2012|Sam Farmer

Indianapolis is in, Pittsburgh is out, and Colts interim Coach Bruce Arians has to be pinching himself.

Arians, fired as Pittsburgh's offensive coordinator after last season, has coached the Colts to a wildly improbable playoff berth one season after finishing 2-14. It might have been Arians' last game this season as interim coach, as leukemia-stricken Coach Chuck Pagano has been cleared to return.

"Mission accomplished. That's all I can say," Arians said. "Without getting emotional again, knowing that Chuck is going to be back Monday, the workweek shouldn't be as stressful."

As the Colts (10-5) were hanging on Sunday for a 20-13 victory at Kansas City, the Steelers were on their way to a 13-10 home loss to Cincinnati. The Bengals (9-6) grabbed the AFC's final playoff spot.

"Not our day and thus, not our year," Pittsburgh Coach Mike Tomlin said after his team lost for the fifth time in six games to fall to 7-8. "Just not enough significant plays at the moments. Sounds like a broken record, but reality as we sit here."

It's all over but the seeding in that conference, with Houston, Denver, New England, Baltimore, Indianapolis and Cincinnati qualifying for the postseason. With one week remaining in the regular season, the Texans and Broncos are in the best position to earn first-round byes.

Atlanta is the only playoff team that can truly exhale. The Falcons (13-2) secured home-field advantage throughout the postseason with a victory Saturday night over Detroit.

In Philadelphia, Washington's Robert Griffin III returned from his knee sprain to lead the Redskins to a 27-20 victory over the Eagles.

That allowed the Redskins to maintain control of their destiny in the NFC East. They play host to Dallas next Sunday with the division title on the line. Washington hasn't won the division since 1999, and hasn't been to the playoffs since 2007.

Even though they lost in overtime to New Orleans on Sunday, the Cowboys are 8-7 and can still grab a spot in the playoffs by beating Washington (9-6).

The Giants, who lost at Baltimore and are also 8-7, are no longer in contention for a division title and face long odds of making the postseason as a wild-card team.

Minnesota, 9-6 after winning at Houston, has the inside track on a wild-card berth.

In the NFC West, Seattle secured at least a wild-card spot with its victory over San Francisco on Sunday night. To win the division, the Seahawks (10-5) would need to beat St. Louis next Sunday, and have the 49ers (10-4-1) lose to Arizona.

If the 49ers win, or Seattle loses, San Francisco wins the NFC West and plays host to a playoff game.

However, with the 49ers losing in Seattle, Green Bay (11-4) grabbed the inside track on the No. 2 seeding and a first-round bye.

Chicago (9-6), which won at Arizona on Sunday, needs a win at Detroit, coupled with a Vikings loss to Green Bay, to qualify as a wild card.

Tebow turbulence

No matter how he has played, Tim Tebow has always been regarded as the paragon of sportsmanship and never-say-die persistence. But according to an ESPN report after the Jets' loss to San Diego, Tebow asked out of the wildcat package because he was frustrated with his role in the offense.

The report, which cited several unnamed people with the Jets, said Tebow's frustration reached a boiling point Tuesday when he learned he would be passed over for the starting opportunity when Mark Sanchez was benched. Greg McElroy got the start.

Tebow reportedly was disappointed enough that he told coaches he didn't want to be used situationally. That gave the team time to replace him in the wildcat with receiver Jeremy Kerley, a former high school quarterback. Kerley played in the game, Tebow didn't.

After the game, Tebow was asked who told him he wouldn't be playing in the wildcat and he said: "It just kind of happens."

Texans' Foster ill

Houston running back Arian Foster left Sunday's game in the third quarter because of an irregular heartbeat and didn't return. Afterward, neither he nor Texans Coach Gary Kubiak seemed concerned.

"I'll be OK," Foster told reporters. "It's a very minor situation, so I'll be OK."

Kubiak said Foster experienced the problem once before in practice.

"He calms down and he's fine," the coach said.

The Texans' medical staff cleared Foster to return to the game, but Kubiak thought it best to give him the rest of the day off.

Slowing his roll

There's no shame in running for 86 yards against the league's fifth-ranked rush defense. But Minnesota's Adrian Peterson, who did that at Houston on Sunday, left himself a good piece of work to break Eric Dickerson's single-season rushing record.

Peterson would need to run for 208 yards in the season finale against Green Bay to eclipse the record of 2,105 yards, set by Dickerson with the Los Angeles Rams in 1984. Peterson had 210 yards rushing against the Packers on Dec. 2 and 212 against St. Louis last week.

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