A first round bye was on the line in the NFC South. It was between two teams, the Falcons and Panthers. Carolina controlled their own fate, and they used a 20-point lead early and a late rally to defeat the New Orleans Saints at the Superdome 33-31 on Sunday.
Carolina went up 30-10 entering the fourth quarter, but possible NFL MVP Drew Brees, who became the second ever 5,000-yard passer, threw three fourth quarter touchdowns to give the Saints a 31-30 lead. Jake hooked up with Steve Smith on a prayer to set up John Kasay's 42-yard game-winning field goal.
The Atlanta Falcons clinched a spot last week, but because of Carolina's victory, a wild card road game is what they will get. Atlanta rallied past the Rams 31-27 after Jerius Norwood broke loose for a 45-yard TD run to seal the win.
The Bucs fell to the Oakland Raiders by seven to eliminate their playoff hopes. With a win over Oakland, Tampa would have gone to the playoffs. They were 9-3 with four games remaining but failed to win any of those games. They lost their last two at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, a place they were 6-0 until they faced the AFC West to close the season.
The Panthers are the South Division champions and will be the No. 2 seed in the NFC Playoffs. They get a week off and will await their opponent, the higher seed who wins next weekend. The Falcons travel to Glendale to face the NFC West champion Cardinals. That kickoff is set for 4:30 p.m. and will be on NBC.
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