Jets, Eagles, Chiefs are in the playoffs ... and don’t say they backed in

Everybody can use a helping hand now and again, and the New York Jets are no exception. Neither are the Kansas City Chiefs and Philadelphia Eagles.

Those teams secured postseason berths Sunday thanks to helping hands from three other teams. The move-the-chain reactions gave an AFC wild-card berth to the Jets, the AFC West title to the Chiefs and the NFC East crown to the Eagles.

Even though the Jets lost at Chicago, 38-34 — their third defeat in four games — they were handed a wild-card spot when Washington beat Jacksonville in overtime.


“By the way, I think we’re in the playoffs,” a giddy Rex Ryan said when he heard a huge roar from the Jets’ locker room — confirmation the Jaguars had lost — in the middle of his postgame news conference. “God dog, hey! It ain’t the way I wanted it, but I’ll take it!”

In Kansas City, the Chiefs clinched their first AFC West title in eight years, but not just because they rolled over Tennessee, 34-14. To clinch a week early the Chiefs needed Cincinnati to upset San Diego, and the Bengals did, 34-20, slamming the door on a team that had won the West four years in a row.

The Chiefs have won 10 games, matching their combined victory total of the previous three seasons. Quarterback Matt Cassel called that “a huge accomplishment,” and now the Chiefs — who are undefeated at home this season — have earned the right to play a first-round playoff game at home.

Meanwhile, the slow-starting Chargers finally dug themselves a hole they couldn’t claw their way out of — and they were left as cold as their frigid surroundings.

“Words can’t really explain how we feel right now,” Chargers safety Eric Weddle told reporters. “Our season is done. It’s probably the worst feeling you can have.”

Winter weather hit so hard in Philadelphia that the NFL made the highly unusual decision to postpone the Sunday night game, meaning the Eagles will play host to Minnesota on Tuesday night (Channel 4).

Still, the Eagles got a huge favor from the Green Bay Packers, who, in beating the New York Giants, not only kept their playoff hopes alive but also gift-wrapped the NFC East for Philadelphia.

The Eagles will be looking for more help from the Packers on Sunday. Green Bay finishes against Chicago, and the NFC North champion Bears are vying with the Eagles for a first-round bye. If the Packers win and the Eagles win their last two, Green Bay qualifies for the postseason, the Giants are eliminated and Philadelphia takes the No. 2 seeding ahead of Chicago.

Heading into the final week, five of the six AFC playoff teams have been determined, with only the AFC South in question, although Indianapolis can clinch that with a win over Tennessee, or a Jacksonville loss at Houston.

New England and Kansas City have won their divisions; Pittsburgh or Baltimore will win the North, with the other receiving a wild-card berth; and the Jets will get the other wild-card spot.

Said overjoyed Ravens Coach John Harbaugh: “I told the team it’s just the beginning.”

In the NFC, Chicago and Philadelphia have won their divisions. Atlanta can clinch the NFC South with a victory over New Orleans on Monday night. Otherwise, a Falcons victory or a Saints loss in Week 17 will do the trick. Meanwhile, the NFC West, where Seattle will play host to St. Louis on Sunday, in a winner-take-all showdown.

For Pete’s Sake

Somehow, Pete Carroll’s Seahawks still have a postseason pulse, even though they have lost seven of their last nine games and at best can finish 7-9.

They have the tiebreaker over St. Louis, so Sunday’s Rams-Seahawks finale in Seattle will determine the NFC West champion. Complicating matters for the Seahawks is that they could be without quarterback Matt Hasselbeck, who left Sunday’s game in the first quarter because of a hip injury. It came on a touchdown run by Hasselbeck, and he appeared to have aggravated a chronic lower-back problem.

If Hasselbeck can’t play, that leaves the Seahawks with the lightly experienced Charlie Whitehurst (one career start) at quarterback. Clearly, the Seahawks saw — and might still see — great potential in Whitehurst, considering they gave a lot to San Diego (swapped second-round picks, plus a third-rounder) to acquire him in the spring.

Tom terrific

New England’s Tom Brady further strengthened his case for his second most-valuable-player award by securing another spot in the NFL record books.

Brady extended his streak of pass attempts without an interception to 319, blowing past the previous record of 309 set by Bernie Kosar with Cleveland in the 1990 and ’91 seasons.

As is the Patriots’ way, Brady had a matter-of-fact response Sunday when asked about the record: “I guess I’m glad I’m not throwing interceptions,” he said with a shrug.

Bill Belichick would approve.

The coach also has to love this: Brady has thrown for a touchdown in all 15 games this season, meaning he’s one game away from becoming the seventh quarterback to accomplish the feat in all 16 games.

Big chill

At one point Sunday, it was 32 degrees for the game in Chicago, and just 38 for the game in Jacksonville — the coldest home game in Jaguars history.

How’s that for six degrees of separation?

Time changes

The NFL announced six game time changes for Week 17. Five games originally scheduled for 10 a.m. PST were moved to 1:15 — Chicago at Green Bay, the Giants at Washington, Dallas at Philadelphia, Tennessee at Indianapolis and Jacksonville at Houston.

NBC didn’t have a Sunday night game scheduled for Week 17, but now St. Louis at Seattle has been switched to 5:15 p.m. PDT on the network.