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NFL scores, news and highlights: What happened Sunday, Week 17

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The NFL regular season is over. The playoffs are all set to begin. Join us for a look back at the regular season finale.

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Who are these Cowboys?

By Eric Sollenberger

The Dallas Cowboys steamrolled through FedEx field 44-17 on Sunday, putting the finishing touches on a 12-4 season. The victory also put the finishing touches on their 8-0 record in away games, a feat that hasn't been accomplished since the Patriots perfect regular season in 2007. This bodes well for the Cowboys if past performances can be considered indicators of future results - six out of the seven teams that won every away game reached the Super Bowl.

It's no coincidence that this team does so well on the road. When the Cowboys play away from home they play mad. They come out swinging and they do things like drop a surprise onside kick in the second quarter. As they did today. They do things like keeping Tony Romo and DeMarco Murray in the game through the fourth quarter, a move that would be described as reckless by most and fire-able by some if either had sustained a serious injury. But they live by the sword and they die by it. They step on teams' throats outside of Arlington. They have an attitude that has been missing from the franchise since midway through the Bill Parcells era.

The stupidity of Garrett's decision to leave starters in, aside, it speaks to the mentality that this Cowboys team has carried with them. Picked by many to bring up the rear in the NFC East, they have played incredibly physical football, most visibly in their dominance at the line of scrimmage. The game on Sunday game was no different. The Cowboys' O-line bullied their way to a 6.7 yards per carry average while giving up only one sack.

The best performance of the day came from the Cowboys defense, specifically from Bruce Carter. The third-year linebacker caught two difficult interceptions, and assisted on a big fourth down stop on Washington TE Jordan Reed when the game was still a contest. The Dallas defense as a unit held Washington to 4-of-12 on third down, and 0-for-2 on fourth down.

The Week 17 result sends Washington into a familiar offseason of uncertainty. It wouldn't shock anyone if first-year head coach Jay Gruden was let go, or if Robert Griffin III was traded unceremoniously. There's really not a whole lot that would shock anyone about this football team anymore, but I'm sure they'll find a way.

As far as the on-field product for Washington, the defense continued its performance as perhaps the league's most consistently disappointing unit during the past five years. According to @SportingParagon, defensive coordinator Jim Haslett set NFL records for the most total yards allowed by any coordinator over a five-year span, and fell just 16 points shy of matching the record for most total points allowed. There shouldn't be any way that Haslett returns next year, but again, this is Washington. As usual, the most entertaining part of the year in D.C. should be the offseason.

Seahawks, Packers lockdown NFC top seeds

By Danny Kelly

The Seahawks went into halftime down 6-0 to a plucky Rams team, but dominated the second half thanks to a Bruce Irvin pick-six and a Marshawn Lynch touchdown run, and now lock up home-field advantage throughout the playoffs for the second straight season. The defending Super Bowl Champs own one of the strongest home-field advantages in the NFL. They are 22-2 in their last 24 home games a span where they have outscored opponents by 357 points and have 55 takeaways and a +22 turnover margin.

Seattle's road to the No. 1 seed has been a bit rocky this season as it struggled with many of the issues that typically plague Super Bowl winners, but the Seahawks set themselves up well for a run at a repeat.

Green Bay survived an Aaron Rodgers calf injury scare to run away from the Lions in the second half and claim yet another division title and a valuable first-round bye in the playoffs. Rodgers finished 17-of-22 for 226 yards and two touchdowns, including one that he threw right after aggravating a calf injury.

The Packers' win means Detroit has still not won in Green Bay for 23 years. The loss for Detroit means they'll have to travel to Dallas to take on a red-hot Cowboys team on the road, not an easy proposition. To the victor go the spoils, though, and Green Bay now gets to host the highest-seeded team to emerge from the Wildcard round -- a big advantage for a team that finished 8-0 at home and just 4-4 on the road.

If the Packers and Seahawks both make it through the divisional round, that sets up an intriguing matchup in Seattle. Green Bay lost its last two against the Seattle, including a 36-16 throttling in Week 1 this season. Both of those games were in Seattle too. But this is the postseason, and if it gets that far, you'd have to think the Packers could put up more a fight this time ... right?

Ravens clinch AFC's final spot

By Danny Kelly

The Ravens made it stressful for their fanbase Sunday, going into the fourth quarter trailing 10-3 to the Browns and in desperate need of a win to stay alive. Baltimore rallied late, however, scoring 17 straight points as Joe Flacco connected with Torrey Smith and Kamar Aiken on late-game touchdown passes. Along with a San Diego loss, the Ravens clinched the AFC's No. 6 seed.

Justin Forsett, the "out of nowhere" player of the year that took over in the backfield after Ray Rice was released, finished the year with 1,266 rushing yards and eight touchdowns after adding another 119 on the ground Sunday afternoon. The seventh-year pro provided the Ravens with a spark all season and the respected veteran transitioned seamlessly into Gary Kubiak's zone blocking scheme, a system Forsett has played in his whole career.

Baltimore finishes 10-6 in the toughest division in the NFL and the AFC North sends three teams to the playoffs. The Ravens return to the playoffs after missing the cut last season, and the 10-6 mark matches the record they had in 2012 when they won Super Bowl XLVII.

Panthers clinch NFC South

By Danny Kelly

The Panthers went into Atlanta on Sunday and dominated the winner-take-all game from start to finish, running away with the NFC South 34-3. It's a pretty remarkable feat for a team that was, at one point, all but left for dead in the NFC South. From early October to late November, Carolina went without a win, and during a ten game stretch smack dab in the middle of the season -- from Week 3 to Week 13 -- they were 1-8-1.

Cam Newton and company bounced back, though, and were fortunate to play in one of the weakest divisions in NFL history. With the help of a four-game win streak to end the year, Carolina won the NFC South for the second year in a row, but this time with a losing record -- 7-8-1. The good news for the Panthers is their defense looked like the one that helped them to a 12-4 record last year.

In a funny twist of fate (if you want to call it funny), the Panthers will now host the free-falling Cardinals, who are down to their third-string quarterback and have lost four of their last six games, including their last two to the Seahawks and Niners.

Pick six

1. Jim Harbaugh and Frank Gore shared an emotional goodbye. 49ers fans and players reacted too.

2. The Browns are turning on Johnny Manziel and Josh Gordon.

3. Intentional or not, Aaron Rodgers isn't giving Ndamukong Suh the benefit of the doubt.

4. Your weekly Odell Beckham Jr. WOW moment.

5. There was a raw sewage leak in the Falcons locker room ... the NFC South!

6. Awww, Justin Houston's son was super excited about his dad breaking the Chiefs' sack record.

Sunday scoreboard

Cleveland Browns 10, Baltimore Ravens 20 (final)

Dallas Cowboys 44, Washington 17 (final)

Indianapolis Colts 27, Tennessee Titans 10 (final)

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 20, New Orleans Saints 23 (final)

Philadelphia Eagles 34, New York Giants 26 (final)

Buffalo Bills 17, New England Patriots 9 (final)

Houston Texans 23, Jacksonville Jaguars 17 (final)

Kansas City Chiefs 19, San Diego Chargers 7 (final)

New York Jets 37, Miami Dolphins 24 (final)

Chicago Bears 9, Minnesota Vikings 13 (final)

Oakland Raiders 14, Denver Broncos 47 (final)

Arizona Cardinals 17, San Francisco 49ers 20 (final)

Detroit Lions 20, Green Bay Packers 30 (final)

St. Louis Rams 6, Seattle Seahawks 20 (final)

Carolina Panthers 34, Atlanta Falcons 3 (final)

Cincinnati Bengals 17, Pittsburgh Steelers 27 (final)