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Mediocrity still rules in the NFL’s American Conference.

Fourteen of the 16 teams in the AFC are in contention for the playoffs, including nine with losing records. That includes the 4-7 Buffalo Bills, who had the week off.

While the Bills relaxed, three of the teams above them in the race for the AFC’s second wild-card playoff berth – the New York Jets, Miami and Oakland – lost while four others won.

As a result, the Jets, Dolphins, Pittsburgh, Cleveland and Tennessee are tied with 5-6 records. Buffalo, Cleveland and Oakland are just one game behind at 4-7. Kansas City (9-2) stands to get the first wild card if the season ended today.

It’s a different story in the NFC, where there are ties for the division leads in the NFC East (Philadelphia and Dallas) and the NFC North (Detroit and Chicago).

Game of the day

Patriots 34, Broncos 31 (OT)

The scoop: After overcoming a 24-0 first half deficit, New England needed a break in overtime. A punt that ricocheted off a Denver blocker and was recovered by the Patriots set up Stephen Gostkowski’s 31-yard winning field goal with 2 minutes left in the extra seasion.

Why the Patriots won: Behind Tom Brady they were able to shake off lost fumbles on their first three series of the game.

The front-runners

Panthers 20, Dolphins 16

The scoop: Carolina won its seventh in a row on another late comeback led by Cam Newton. The Panthers quarterback converted a fourth-and-10 at his 20 with a completion to keep alive the winning drive, and Carolina went on to score a touchdown with 43 seconds left. Newton hit Greg Olsen with a 1-yard pass to cap a 12-play drive. Miami’s Ryan Tannehill nearly connected with Mike Wallace for a 60-yard score in the final seconds, but the pass fell incomplete at the goal line.

Why the Panthers won: Miami had only 52 yards rushing and scored no points in the second half.

Chargers 41, Chiefs 38

The scoop: Philip Rivers threw for 392 yards and three touchdowns, the final one a 26-yarder to Seyi Ajirotutu, just his third catch of the season, with 24 seconds remaining to end San Diego’s three-game losing streak. The Chiefs had taken the lead when Alex Smith hit Dwayne Bowe for a go-ahead score with 1:22 left. It was the second straight loss for the Chiefs, who play at Denver next week. They also lost top pass rushers Tamba Hali and Justin Houston to injuries during the game.

Why the Chargers won: The Kansas City pass rushing was missing in action after the injuries to Hali and Houston. The Chiefs sacked Rivers only once.

Cardinals 40, Colts 11

The scoop: Carson Palmer threw two touchdown passes to Larry Fitzgerald, and Arizona won its fourth in a row. Cardinals coach Bruce Arians beat the team that he coached to the playoffs last season as interim coach.

Why the Cardinals won: Arizona drove into Colts territory in each of its first seven offensive series.

Buccaneers 24, Lions 21

The scoop: In a game with seven lead changes, Matthew Stafford’s fourth interception went in and out of Calvin Johnson’s hands to rookie Johnthan Banks inside the Tampa Bay 5 in the final minute, allowing the Buccaneers to hold on. It was the third straight win for Tampa Bay. Tampa Bay rookie Mike Glennon was 14 of 21 for 247 yards and threw two touchdowns, including the game-winner to Tiquan Underwood on an 85-yard play early in the fourth quarter. Johnson had seven receptions for 115 yards, but he and the Lions didn’t take advantage of the Bucs playing the second half without cornerback Darrelle Revis (groin).

Why the Buccaneers won: They were outgained by 161 yards and had only 10 first downs to 25 for Detroit, but five Lions made up for that.

Cowboys 24, Giants 21

The scoop: Tony Romo threw two touchdowns and led a drive that set up Dan Bailey’s winning field goal from 35 yards on the final play. Dallas ended the Giants’ four-game winning streak. New York had rallied from a 21-6 third quarter deficit and tied the game on a 4-yard touchdown pass from Eli Manning to Louis Murphy Jr. and a two-point conversion run by Andre Brown.

Why the Cowboys won: Romo hit two crucial third-down passes on the 14-play drive that covered the final 4:45.

The also-rans

Titans 23, Raiders 19

The scoop: Ryan Fitzpatrick helped put struggling Tennessee right back in the thick of the AFC playoff race with his best performance yet for the Titans. Fitzpatrick threw a 10-yard touchdown pass to Kendall Wright with 10 seconds remaining. He also threw a 54-yard TD pass to Justin Hunter. Matt McGloin had led the Raiders on a 75-yard scoring drive to take a 19-16 lead with 6:10 to play.

Why the Titans won: Fitzpatrick completed eight of 10 passes on the winning drive.

Packers 26, Vikings 26

The scoop: Backup quarterback Matt Flynn threw for 218 yards to help the Packers storm back from a 16-point deficit. Each team kicked a field goal in overtime. It was the first tie in the NFL since the Rams and 49ers ended 24-24 on Nov. 11, 2012 and first under the tiebreaking rules instituted in 2012.

Why nobody won: Green Bay’s offense didn’t get rolling until Flynn had relieved Scott Tolzien in the second half. The Vikings settled for field goals three times from the Red Zone.

Jaguars 13, Texans 6

The scoop: Houston keeps sinking. Maurice Jones-Drew ran for a season-high 84 yards and a touchdown and the Jaguars extended the Texans’ losing streak to a franchise-record nine games. The defending AFC South champions haven’t won since Sept. 15.

Why the Jaguars won: They limited Houston to 11 first downs and only 218 total yards.

Steelers 27, Browns 11

The scoop: Ben Roethlisberger threw two touchdown passes, a 41-yarder to Antonio Brown in the first half and a 4-yarder to Emanuel Sanders in the third quarter. The Steelers are now 16-1 in the last 17 games against Cleveland. Browns quarterback Jason Campbell sustained a concussion in the third quarter when he was sacked by cornerback William Gay.

Why the Steelers won: Besides knocking Campbell out of the game, Pittsburgh won the turnover battle, 4-0, and held the Browns to 55 yards rushing.

Rams 42, Bears 21

The scoop: Tavon Austin’s 65-yard touchdown run jump-started a 21-point first quarter for St. Louis. The Long brothers – Chicago guard Kyle and St. Louis defensive end Chris – were the focal point of one skirmish in the first half. Chris raced off the sidelines to drag his brother from a fight with Rams end William Hayes.

Why the Rams won: They rolled up 258 yards rushing and averaged 8.9. Even if you don’t count Austin’s run, they still averaged 6.9 on their other rushing plays.

Dog of the day

Ravens 19, Jets 3

The scoop: Joe Flacco threw a 66-yard touchdown pass to Jacoby Jones for the game’s only touchdown. Jones had four catches for 103 yards and returned five punts for 108.

Why the Ravens won: They limited the Jets to one third-down conversion in 13 tries.

News wire services contributed to this report.

email: mnorthrop@buffnews.com