Tampa Bay quarterback Tom Brady celebrates after scoring a touchdown Sunday against the Carolina Panthers. Brady also passed for 432 yards and three touchdowns, and the Buccaneers clinched the NFC South title with a 30-24 win. Chris O’Meara/Associated Press

TAMPA, Fla. — Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are headed back to the playoffs, confident they’re still capable of making this a special season.

Brady threw for 432 yards and three long touchdowns to Mike Evans, and the Bucs (8-8) erased a double-digit, fourth-quarter deficit for the second week in a row to clinch their second straight NFC South championship with a 30-24 victory over the Carolina Panthers on Sunday.

“Every year you try to win the division and we won the division. It doesn’t matter how you win the division. My heart ain’t got much left in it, but it feels great,” Coach Todd Bowles said. “We’re in one spot we need to be. We can’t get where we want to be unless we win the division. We won the division.”

Evans finished with 10 catches for 207 yards, scoring on receptions of 63, 57 and 30 yards and becoming the first player in NFL history to begin a career with nine consecutive seasons with 1,000-plus yards receiving.

The TDs were the first for Evans since Oct. 2 – a stretch of 12 games – and hiked his season total to six after scoring 14 times in 2021 and 13 two years ago, when Tampa Bay won the Super Bowl.

“We’ve battled through a lot of tough things this year,” Brady said. “Happy to win the division. It’s always tough to do it. NFL games are tough to win and we always figure out a way to keep them somehow exciting. I wish they wouldn’t be as exciting as we made them.”


The Panthers (6-10) led 14-0 early and 21-10 after Sam Darnold’s third TD pass of the day, 10 seconds into the fourth quarter.

It was all Bucs from there, with Evans beating cornerback C.J. Henderson for touchdowns twice and Darnold losing a fumble on a sack inside his own 10. That turnover set up Brady’s 1-yard TD sneak, which put the game out of reach with 1:58 left.

The Bucs (8-8) can finish the regular season with a winning record by beating Atlanta on the road next weekend. As division champs, they are assured of beginning the playoffs with a home game in two weeks.

The Panthers, who had won four of six to climb back into playoff contention after firing coach Matt Rhule and trading star running back Christian McCaffrey, could have clinched their first NFC South title since 2015 by beating the Bucs and then winning at New Orleans.

Darnold threw for 341 yards, three touchdowns and one interception. He also lost two fumbles while falling to 3-2 since becoming Carolina’s starter on Thanksgiving weekend.

GIANTS 38, COLTS 10: Daniel Jones threw two touchdown passes and ran for two more, and New York (9-6-1) routed visiting Indianapolis (4-11-1) to make the playoffs for the first time since 2016.


Landon Collins, one of two players from the ‘16 team, broke the game open late in the second quarter with a 52-yard pick-6 as the Giants put a final stamp on a surprising playoff run. The Giants are the third team from the NFC East to make this season’s playoffs, joining the Philadelphia Eagles and Dallas Cowboys.

Their point total was a season high, and it was the first time the Giants scored at least 30 points since a 37-34 loss to Dallas on Oct. 11, 2020.

PACKERS 41, VIKINGS 17: Aaron Rodgers threw a touchdown pass and ran for a score, and Green Bay (8-8) continued its improbable playoff push by shutting down Justin Jefferson and visiting Minnesota (12-4).

Keisean Nixon scored on a 105-yard kickoff return and Darnell Savage had a 75-yard pick-6 of Kirk Cousins – one of four turnovers by the Vikings QB – to help Green Bay build a 27-3 halftime lead. Aaron Jones rushed for 111 yards on 14 carries and A.J. Dillon had a 2-yard touchdown run as the Packers won their fourth straight.

Green Bay will reach the playoffs if it beats division rival Detroit at home in its regular-season finale.

STEELERS 16, RAVENS 13: Kenny Pickett threw a 10-yard touchdown pass to Najee Harris with 56 seconds remaining, and Pittsburgh (8-8) won at Baltimore (10-6) to improbably keep its playoff hopes alive for another week.


It was the first touchdown allowed by Baltimore at home in four games, and the Steelers needed it to avoid elimination. Just like they needed Miami to lose to New England earlier in the day, which also happened.

Pittsburgh can now make the playoffs by beating Cleveland next weekend – if Miami and New England both lose.

SEAHAWKS 23, JETS 6: Geno Smith threw two first-half touchdown passes, Kenneth Walker III rushed for 133 yards and Seattle (8-8) kept its postseason hopes alive while eliminating visiting New York (7-9).

Seattle, which snapped a three-game losing streak, must beat the Rams next week and hope for a loss or tie by Green Bay against Detroit.

LIONS 41, BEARS 10: Jared Goff threw two of his three touchdown passes to Brock Wright in the first half, and Detroit (8-8) beat Chicago (3-13) to remain in the playoff chase.

The Lions have won seven of nine to give themselves a shot at earning a postseason spot for the first time since 2016 going into their regular-season finale at Green Bay. Detroit also needs a loss by Seattle.


SAINTS 20, EAGLES 10: Marshon Lattimore returned an interception 11 yards for a late New Orleans touchdown, and the visiting Saints (7-9) prevented Philadelphia (13-3) from clinching the top seed in the NFC.

Philly quarterback Jalen Hurts missed a second straight game because of a sprained right shoulder.

49ERS 37, RAIDERS 34: Robbie Gould made a 23-yard field goal with 6:53 left in overtime and San Francisco (2-4) extended its winning streak to nine games with a victory at Las Vegas (6-10).

The 49ers can clinch the No. 2 seed in the NFC with a win against Arizona next week or a loss by Minnesota. San Francisco also has a shot at the No. 1 seed and a bye if Philadelphia loses to the Giants.

Las Vegas quarterback Jarrett Stidham, who replaced Derek Carr after the nine-year starter was benched earlier in the week, completed 23 of 34 passes for 365 yards. But the Raiders were eliminated from playoff contention.

BROWNS 24, COMMANDERS 10: Carson Wentz threw three interceptions after getting the starting quarterback job back, defensive miscues added up and Washington’s playoff hopes took a major hit with a loss at home against Cleveland (7-9).


Wentz was 16 of 28 for 143 yards, and the offense gained just 261. The Commanders’ fourth-ranked defense allowed a handful of big plays, including a 46-yard pass from Deshaun Watson to Amari Cooper that became a touchdown when top cornerback Kendall Fuller missed an open-field tackle.

Watson also connected with Cooper on a 33-yard TD pass in the fourth quarter that sent fans to the exits. Washington (7-8-1) would be eliminated from playoff contention later Sunday if Green Bay beats Minnesota.

CHIEFS 27, BRONCOS 24: Patrick Mahomes threw for 328 yards and three touchdowns, two of them to Jerick McKinnon, and Kansas City (13-3) overcame another sloppy start to hold off visiting Denver (4-12).

Isiah Pacheco and Blake Bell also scored for the Chiefs, who beat the Broncos for the 15th consecutive time while keeping alive their hopes for the AFC’s No. 1 seed and lone postseason bye.

JAGUARS 31, TEXANS 3: Travis Etienne ran for 108 yards and a touchdown before halftime, Tyson Campbell returned a fumble for a score and visiting Jacksonville (8-8) snapped a nine-game skid against Houston (2-13-1), earning its fourth straight victory overall.

Jacksonville is in first place in the AFC South and would win the division for the first time since 2017 with a victory at home over slumping Tennessee next week.


FALCONS 20, CARDINALS 19: Younghoe Koo made a 21-yard field goal on the final play, and Atlanta (6-10) beat visiting Arizona (4-12) to end a four-game skid.

In a matchup of teams eliminated from playoff contention, Atlanta rookie quarterback Desmond Ridder got his first career victory. He was 19 of 26 for 169 yards and no interceptions in his third start as he auditions for a starting job next season.

The Cardinals, playing with their fourth starting quarterback in four weeks, have lost six straight and eight of nine. David Blough completed 22 of 40 passes for 222 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions.

CHARGERS 31, RAMS 10: Austin Ekeler rushed for 122 yards, scored two touchdowns and became the fifth running back with 100 receptions in a season as the Chargers (10-6) rolled past the Rams (5-11) in a matchup of SoFi Stadium co-tenants.

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.