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5 Teams to Compete as Pro Football Season Draws to Close - 2003-12-28

Five National Football League teams are competing for the final three spots in the post-season playoffs as their regular season comes to a close Sunday.

In the American Football Conference, either the Baltimore Ravens or the Cincinnati Bengals will move on to the post-season.

Baltimore can clinch the North division title with a win or a tie against Pittsburgh, or if Cincinnati loses. For the Bengals to advance, they must win against Cleveland and the Ravens must lose.

The Seattle Seahawks took a step toward clinching the wild-card playoff slot in the National Football Conference by beating the San Francisco 49ers Saturday, 24-17. Depending on the outcome of today's games, however, the Seahawks still could be edged out by the Green Bay Packers. And the division title is still unresolved in the NFC North, where the Packers and the Minnesota Vikings have identical (9-6) records.

Minnesota can clinch the division title with a win against Arizona. The Vikings also will be in the post-season even if they lose, if Green Bay also loses today, or if both the Vikings and the Packers play to a tie.

Green Bay can win the division if it beats or ties Denver at home today, and the Vikings do not win in Arizona.

The Packers also have a chance to take the last NFC playoff spot away from the Seahawks, depending on the outcome of today's game between the Dallas Cowboys and the New Orleans Saints. When two teams are tied, the NFL looks at their head-to-head results and their opponents' won-lost record throughout the season to decide who will advance to the playoffs.

The New England Patriots ended their regular season Saturday with a 31-0 rout of the Buffalo Bills that secured the Patriots' home field advantage throughout the playoffs. Quarterback Tom Brady threw four touchdown passes in the first half and Adam Vinatieri added a field goal for the Patriots, who finished undefeated at home and with the best overall record in the NFL this year - 14 wins and two losses.

In Washington, the Philadelphia Eagles beat the Redskins easily, 31-7. The victory wrapped up the Eagles' NFC East division title and won them a bye for the first round of the playoffs.