DENVER, DEC. 27 -- San Francisco in the NFC and Denver in the AFC today earned home-field advantage throughout the NFL conference playoffs, winning convincingly on the last weekend of the regular season.
A 48-0 rout of the Los Angeles Rams tonight enabled the 49ers (13-2) to finish with the best record in the NFL, and play conference playoff games at home. And Denver's 24-0 victory over San Diego will keep the Broncos (10-4-1) in Mile High Stadium, where today's blizzard didn't faze the home team.
With only one game left in the regular season, playoff teams were finally determined today. Denver (AFC West), Cleveland (AFC Central) and Indianapolis (AFC East) won their divisions; Houston and Seattle earned wild-card bids.
Only one spot remained vacant in the NFC this morning, and Minnesota backed into it when St. Louis lost to Dallas.
Sunday, Seattle (9-6) will play at Houston in the AFC wild-card game, and Minnesota (8-7) will visit New Orleans (12-3) in the NFC. Game times will be announced Monday. The Washington Redskins (NFC East champions), Chicago Bears (NFC Central) and 49ers (NFC West) and the AFC division winners play again on Jan. 9 or 10.
The Redskins (11-4) won't play their playoff opener at home. If New Orleans wins the wild-card game, the Redskins will play at San Francisco. If the Vikings win, the Redskins will play the 11-4 Bears at Chicago's Soldier Field.
The Bears get to play at home because they had a better record in conference games than the Redskins. The Redskins can only play at home if they meet a wild-card team in the NFC championship game on Jan. 17.
Houston will be in its first playoff in seven years. And the Indianapolis Colts (9-6) will take a spot for the first time since the Baltimore Colts in 1977. The Colts were 3-13 last season. It will be the first playoff appearance in the franchise's 21 years for the New Orleans Saints, who have the NFL's longest winning streak, nine games.
Minnesota, despite Saturday's loss to the Redskins, finished a game ahead of St. Louis (7-8). The Oilers (9-6) won the home field for one week because they had a better conference record than Seattle, which lost to AFC West opponent Kansas City this afternoon.
Houston's victory over Cincinnati and Seattle's loss eliminated San Diego (8-7), Miami (8-6) and New England (7-7). It will be the first time in four years that the Monday night finale (Miami-New England) will be meaningless.
Seattle owes thanks to Pittsburgh for losing to Cleveland (10-5, AFC East champion) on Saturday, which sent the Seahawks into the playoffs even before they took the field in Kansas City. Indianapolis could have lost and still been alive for a wild-card spot. But the Colts did away with any suspense by beating Tampa Bay as Eric Dickerson ran for 196 yards to help win the club's first AFC East title since it moved to Indianapolis in 1984.
Fewer than 10,000 were on hand in Mile High Stadium to watch the Broncos beat San Diego to finish with the best record in the AFC. The Broncos had the AFC West title by kickoff because of Seattle's loss to Kansas City.