The Chiefs needed Cleveland to beat Baltimore and Jacksonville to beat Houston, and neither of those outcomes transpired. The Ravens wound up with the AFC's final playoff spot. The Cincinnati Bengals and Pittsburgh Steelers will play for the AFC North title Sunday evening.
San Diego (9-7) needed merely to beat Kansas City (9-7) to reach the postseason.
Chiefs linebacker Justin Houston piled up four sacks to finish with 22 on the season, breaking Derrick Thomas's franchise record, and Cairo Santos had four field goals.
The Chargers' Philip Rivers threw for 291 yards, but was picked off twice. Branden Oliver ran for 71 yards and a touchdown.
Panthers 34, Falcons 3
Carolina (7-8-1) will host a wild-card playoff game next week. The Panthers have won four straight, but still are the first team to enter the playoffs with a losing record since 2010, when Seattle was 7-9.
Harper scored on a 31-yard return in the second quarter and Boston helped clinch the win with his 84-yard interception return late in the third quarter. A 33-yard fumble return by Thomas Davis set up another touchdown.
The Falcons (6-10) were booed as they finished their second straight losing season under embattled coach Mike Smith.
Ravens 20, Browns 10
Baltimore earned a wild-card berth in the AFC playoffs by rallying to defeat visiting Cleveland while getting the help they needed halfway across the country.
Flacco's 2-yard TD throw to Kamar Aiken with 3:44 remaining clinched it.
To reach the playoffs for the sixth time in seven years, Baltimore (10-6) needed to beat the Browns (7-9) and have San Diego lose in Kansas City.
That is precisely what happened.
The first part of that equation seemed easy enough, given that the Browns had lost four straight, were starting rookie quarterback Connor Shaw and had dropped 12 of their past 13 against Baltimore.
The Ravens prevailed, and the Chiefs completed Baltimore's dream scenario with a 19-7 win.
49ers 20, Cardinals 17
Colin Kaepernick threw a go-ahead 3-yard touchdown pass to Bruce Miller late in the third quarter, and Jim Harbaugh won in his likely last game leading San Francisco, which beat playoff-bound Arizona in Santa Clara, Calif.
Anquan Boldin caught a 76-yard TD pass and went over 1,000 yards receiving. Frank Gore ran for 144 yards on 25 carries to go over 1,000 yards rushing for the eighth time in 10 NFL seasons with San Francisco (8-8).
The franchise's all-time rushing leader hopes to return to the only team he has known and the team has publicly expressed a mutual interest.
Not so for Harbaugh, who would depart with one season remaining on the $25 million, five-year contract he signed in January 2011.
The Cardinals (11-5) missed the franchise's first 12-win season.
Seahawks 20, Rams 6
Marshawn Lynch scored on a 9-yard run with 12:07 left, Bruce Irvin returned an interception 49 yards for a touchdown and Seattle wrapped up home-field advantage through the NFC playoffs with the victory over visiting St. Louis.
The two fourth-quarter touchdowns by Seattle (12-4) capped a six-game win streak to end the regular season. That earned the Seahawks a second straight NFC West title and the ninth division title in franchise history.
The NFC playoffs will go through Seattle for the second straight season.
St. Louis (6-10) couldn't take advantage of two first-half turnovers by the Seahawks and its only points came on a pair of field goals from Greg Zuerlein
Broncos 47, Raiders 14
C.J. Anderson ran for three touchdowns, and Denver earned a first-round bye and the AFC's No. 2 seed with the rout of visiting Oakland.
Peyton Manning guided the Broncos (12-4) to at least a tie for the best record in the NFL for the third consecutive season since his arrival in Denver. That's something he accomplished just twice in his 13 years in Indianapolis before missing all of 2011 because of spinal fusion surgery.
Denver won't have the top seed this time, however. That went to the New England Patriots, who rested many of their starters in a loss to Buffalo on Sunday.
And Manning, who completed 21 of 37 passes for 273 yards, failed to throw a TD pass for the second time in four weeks after throwing one for 51 consecutive games, just three shy of Drew Brees' NFL record.
The result was impressive but meaningless for postseason purposes unless at least one game played later in the day ended in a tie. Win or lose against Washington (4-12), NFC East champion Dallas (12-4) would get a first-round bye with losses by both Arizona and Seattle.
Bryant caught scoring passes of 65 and 23 yards togive him 16 touchdown receptions on the season, breaking Terrell Owens' team record of 15 set in 2007.
Andrew Luck threw for 160 yards and two touchdowns before sitting out the second half, and Indianapolis tuned up for the postseason with a win in Nashville, Tenn.
The Colts (11-5) bounced back from their worst performance this season by nearly matching what they did offensively in the loss at Dallas by halftime. They wound up outgaining the Titans 378-192 as the AFC South champs swept their division a second straight season for the first time in franchise history.
Indianapolis will host the loser of Cincinnati-Pittsburgh in a wild-card game barring a tie in that game Sunday night.
With their 10th straight loss and Tampa Bay's loss to New Orleans, the Titans (2-14) finished their worst season since 1994 and likely will pick second overall in the draft. This franchise hasn't picked No. 1 overall since trading for the right in 1978 to pick Earl Campbell.
The New York Jets won their season finale at Miami, which might not be enough to save Coach Rex Ryan's job.
Embattled Geno Smith had his best game in a rocky season, throwing for a career-high 358 yards and three touchdowns.
Smith's performance negated a 97-yard run by Lamar Miller, the longest play from scrimmage in Dolphins history. The Jets rallied from a 10-point third-quarter deficit, and Ryan ordered a fake punt with four minutes left that sealed the victory.
With the Jets sitting out the postseason for the fourth consecutive year, owner Woody Johnson is widely expected to fire Ryan, and perhaps general manager John Idzik.
Kyle Orton threw for one touchdown, Anthony Dixon ran for another and Buffalo finished its first winning season in 10 years with a victory over going-through-the motions New England in Foxborough, Mass.
The victory snapped several streaks: Buffalo's 0-12 record at Gillette Stadium and New England's 35 straight home wins against AFC teams.
It was a price the Patriots (12-4) were willing to pay to protect key players, although left tackle Nate Solder didn't return after hurting his knee late in the first half.
The Bills (9-7) were eliminated from the playoffs a week earlier.
The Texans (9-7) had a shot at making the playoffs, but Baltimore beat Cleveland 20-10 to claim the final AFC wild-card spot.
Johnson gave Houston a 21-17 lead with an 8-yard reception early in the fourth. Watt made it 23-17 when he sacked Blake Bortles in the end zone for a safety a few minutes later. The sack gave him 20 1/2 this season, making him the first player in NFL history to have two seasons with 20 or more sacks.
The Jaguars (3-13) had a chance to take the lead late, but Cecil Shorts III was out of bounds on a catch on fourth down.
Mark Sanchez threw two touchdowns and Philadelphia's special teams scored their seventh touchdown of this otherwise frustrating season at East Rutherford, N.J., in what could have been Tom Coughin's final game as the New York's coach.
Backup tight end Trey Burton returned a blocked punt 27 yards for a score in the third quarter, and Nate Allen iced the game with a late interception. The Eagles (10-6) snapped a three-game losing streak that knocked them out of playoff contention last week. The 10 wins matched their total last season when they won the NFC East.
Rookie Odell Beckham Jr. had 12 catches for a career-best 185 yards, including a 63-yard fourth-quarter touchdown that got the Giants within 31-26. The loss snapped a three-game winning streak for the Giants (6-10), who have missed the playoffs for the third straight season.
Teddy Bridgewater threw the go-ahead 44-yard touchdown pass to Adam Thielen in the third quarter, guiding Minnesota to win over the Bears, who have one more blemish on a forgettable season
Jay Cutler returned from a one-game benching with 172 yards on 23-for-36 passing without a fumble or an interception, but he rarely threw long and the offense was off all afternoon.
The Bears (5-11) finished with their worst record in 10 years, perhaps the last game for coach Marc Trestman.
Drew Brees threw a 36-yard touchdown pass to Marques Colston with 1:57 left to help New Orleans overcome a 13-point, second-half deficit for the win at Tampa and keep the Buccaneers on course to land the top pick in the NFL draft.
Brees shrugged off three interceptions — two of them stopping promising third-quarter drives — to throw for 281 yards. His only TD pass gave the Saints (7-9) their first lead, and Junior Galette sacked Josh McCown for a safety that provided the final margin of victory.
Doug Martin rushed for a season-best 108 yards and rookie Mike Evans set a Tampa Bay record with his 12th touchdown reception as the Bucs (2-14) flirted with damaging their chances of winding up with the No. 1 overall selection in the draft.