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NFL Week 15 review: Wild Card race intensifies

Week 15 of the NFL season saw the playoff picture come into sharper focus and, with only three games left for each team, the Wild Card races in each conference look set to go down to the wire.

Most of the leading teams in action on Sunday came through unscathed, but the top game on the schedule for many people saw the Buffalo Bills post an impressive 31-10 win over the Dallas Cowboys.

At the other end of the standings, the Carolina Panthers found a way to secure only their second win of the season.

Let's take a look at the key results from NFL Week 15 and their implications.

Cowboys lose ground with weak road effort

It's the time of the season where every win matters and any backwards steps can be costly, but the Cowboys were the only leading team to suffer a major setback on Sunday.

The San Francisco 49ers, Kansas City Chiefs, Miami Dolphins and Baltimore Ravens all added to their win tallies, but the Cowboys were unable to get it done on the road against a Bills team who have been in win-or-bust mode for almost a month already.

That situation seems to suit the AFC East side, as they have now taken the Eagles to overtime and beaten the Chiefs and Cowboys in consecutive weeks.

Schedules don't come much tougher than that and at 8-6 the Bills are right in the mix for an AFC Wild Card spot. They are only ninth in the conference rankings after Sunday's games, but have now caught up to four other 8-6 teams.

The Cowboys (10-4) threw away all the good work they did in last week's 33-13 win over Philadelphia, giving the Eagles (10-3) a chance to build a new cushion over them at the top of the NFC East standings when they play the Seahawks on Monday night.

The San Francisco 49ers are +240 odds favorites for the Super Bowl after beating the Arizona Cardinals 45-29, with the Baltimore Ravens leading the AFC contenders at +450 after their comfortable 23-7 Sunday night success over the Jacksonville Jaguars. 

The Chiefs (9-5) got back on track with a 27-17 road win over the struggling Patriots and have +700 odds for the NFL Championship.

Browns win a wild one against Bears

The Cleveland Browns stayed at the top of the AFC Wild Card rankings with a wild 20-17 comeback win over the Chicago Bears to move to 9-5 on the season.

The Browns continue to be beset by injuries and they were reduced to having only one healthy starter standing on their offensive line early in this game when Pro Bowl guard Joel Bitonio was forced out of the action with a back issue.

They could get nothing going for most of the game against a feisty Chicago squad who had won their previous two games and the home team trailed 17-7 entering the fourth quarter after some costly turnovers. 

Veteran QB Joe Flacco came alive in the final 15 minutes, though, finding Amari Cooper for a 51-yard touchdown and setting up two Dustin Hopkins field goals, the second of which provided the winning points with 32 seconds remaining.

The Bears almost snatched away the win with a Hail Mary, but it bounced off the hands of players from both teams in the end zone before being intercepted.

The Browns are now -800 to make the playoffs and +500 to miss out, while head coach Kevin Stefanski is becoming a contender to win his second Coach of the Year award at +1400.

The Houston Texans picked up a huge win to keep their AFC South hopes alive, beating the Tennessee Titans 19-16 in overtime despite having to start veteran Case Keenum in place of injured starter CJ Stroud.

The Titans led for much of the game and were still 16-9 ahead late in the fourth quarter until Keenum threw a touchdown pass to Noah Brown.

The tie looked an increasingly likely outcome throughout overtime, but Texans kicker Ka'imi Fairburn, on his return from a spell out with an injury, booted over the winning 54-yard field goal as time expired. 

The Texans are still only third in the betting for the AFC South at +300, behind the -135 Jaguars and the 11-4 Colts, who beat the Steelers 30-13 on Saturday. All three teams now have 8-6 records.

Bucs sailing into smoother waters

In the NFC, the in-form Tampa Bay Buccaneers picked up their third straight win, 34-20 at Green Bay, and they are favorites to win the NFC South at -150 after getting back to .500 at 7-7.

The New Orleans Saints (7-7) are +180 after a 24-6 win over the New York Giants, with the Atlanta Falcons out to +650 after a costly loss to the Carolina Panthers.

That 9-7 win was only the Panthers' second success of the season and the first for interim head coach Chris Tabor after Frank Reich was fired earlier this month.

The Los Angeles Rams are firmly in the hunt for an NFC playoff place after winning for the fourth time in five games with a 28-20 verdict over Washington Commanders in a game that really wasn't as close as that score suggests.

The Rams led 20-0 late in the third quarter, with Cooper Kupp posting 111 receiving yards and one touchdown, while running back Kyren Williams had 152 rushing yards and a score.

The Commanders rallied late when QB Sam Howell was benched in favor of veteran Jacoby Brissett, who threw a 29-yard touchdown to the impressive Terry McLaurin, who registered a career-high 141 receiving yards.

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