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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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Ronnie Stanley, Matthew Judon among NFL’s top 25 potential free agents in 2021

Ronnie Stanley, Matthew Judon among NFL’s top 25 potential free agents in 2021

The Ravens (and most likely all 32 NFL franchises) will face some very difficult decisions next offseason, especially with the talent that potentially could be available on the free agent market.

NFL.com recently released the top 25 potential free agents for the 2021 offseason, and Baltimore features prominently on their list. Left tackle Ronnie Stanley ranks as the third-best to possibly hit the open market, behind only Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott and San Francisco 49ers tight end George Kittle.

“If there were a poll among general managers picking one franchise left tackle to build around for the next decade, Stanley might top the list,” Gregg Rosenthal of NFL.com wrote. “Baltimore has a lot of big contracts coming up, but Stanley is the most important player on the Ravens' roster besides Lamar Jackson.”

Stanley, the 6th overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft, is set to play out the fifth-year option on his rookie deal this season. A huge payday no doubt awaits the All-Pro left tackle, but its not something he’s dwelling on right now.

“It’s definitely not really in the forefront of my mind,” Stanley said. “My main focus right now is just - for me, it’s always been be the best player I can be, help my team win. The money usually takes care of itself after that.”

RELATED: STANLEY HAPPY TO SEE COLLEGE FOOTBALL PLAYERS UNITED

Further down the list at #22, Ravens linebacker Matthew Judon will play under the franchise tag this season. However, there is doubt about how long Judon’s tenure in Baltimore will ultimately last.

“A terrific player who may thrive more with effort than pure raw talent, Judon looks likely to be the latest pass rusher to leave the Ravens nest,” Rosenthal wrote.

Financial flexibility will be at a premium next offseason, with the salary cap likely headed for a historic drop due to the effects of the current pandemic. Regardless, the future of Stanley and Judon in Baltimore will be worth monitoring next offseason.

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More on the table for potential Matthew Judon trades?

More on the table for potential Matthew Judon trades?

Uncertainty surrounds the upcoming college football season, with a majority of high-profile schools and conferences across the country unsure exactly how this year will play out. That uncertainty could actually end up benefiting the Ravens.

Former Jets general manager and current ESPN NFL analyst Mike Tannenbaum knows the draft process well having spent more than two decades in various front offices. Tuesday on ESPN’s “Get Up,” he connected the dots between the state of college football, the 2021 draft and potential NFL trades.

“The impact is massive,” Tannenbaum said. “We take an inexact science and make it even murkier… it just makes draft choices next year less valuable because you just don’t know what you’re getting.”

That murkiness could ultimately work in the Ravens favor. Baltimore placed the franchise tag on linebacker Matthew Judon this offseason but were unable to come to a long-term extension before this past July’s deadline. Tannenbaum sees a way for general managers like Eric DeCosta to capitalize on the current situation and get a haul of draft picks if they’re willing to deal.

RELATED: DEADLINE PASSES WITHOUT A LONG-TERM DEAL FOR JUDON

“If I’m Joe Douglas, the general manager of the Jets, I’m thinking, ‘Should I call Jacksonville or Baltimore right now and see if I can get Matthew Judon or Yannick Ngakoue and get a proven pass rusher?’” Tannanbaum said. “Because if I draft a guy next year who doesn’t play this year, he may not impact that team until the end of ’21, maybe 2022.”

“The permutations are really somewhat complex and I think we’re going to see some unusual trades this year because their picks next year won’t be as valuable if we don’t play college football this season.”

Judon has tallied 28.5 sacks over 4 seasons in Baltimore, including a career high 9.5 sacks last season.

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