The San Francisco 49ers held off a late charge by the Seattle Seahawks to claim the NFC's top seed while defending Super Bowl champions New England were stunned by the Miami Dolphins on the final day of the NFL regular season.
The Seahawks were inches away from completing a last-minute comeback against their NFC West rivals when tight end Jacob Hollister caught a pass on fourth down but was stopped just short of the goal line by rookie linebacker Dre Greenlawut.
With the win the 49ers (13-3) have a first-round bye and home field advantage throughout the play-offs while the fifth-seeded Seahawks (11-5) take a trip to Philadelphia to play the fourth-seeded Eagles (9-7) in a wild-card game on Sunday.
Earlier in the day the Patriots were upset by the lowly Dolphins (5-11) in a loss that cost them a first-round bye. Ryan Fitzpatrick tossed a five-yard touchdown pass to tight end Mike Gesicki with 24 seconds left to earn the visiting Dolphins a 27-24 win over the defending Super Bowl champions.
The loss left the Patriots (12-4), the American Football Conference (AFC) East winners, without a first-round bye for the first time in 10 seasons. They will play the Tennessee Titans (9-7) in a wild-card game next weekend.
"We didn't play the way we’re capable of playing and it ended up costing us," Patriots quarterback Tom Brady said. "Just too many bad mistakes."
The Eagles claimed their second NFC East title in three seasons with a 34-17 triumph over the New York Giants.
The Dallas Cowboys (8-8), who romped past the Washington Redskins 47-16, would have won the division with a victory and an Eagles' loss.
Elsewhere in the NFC, North division champions Green Bay (13-3) needed a last-second field goal to wrap up a first-round bye and the No. 2 seed with a 23-20 win over the Detroit Lions. South champions and third-seeded New Orleans Saints (13-3) also advanced after crushing the Carolina Panthers 42-10.
The Minnesota Vikings (10-6), who lost to the Chicago Bears 21-19, also are in the playoffs as a wild card and earned the No. 3 seed. The Kansas City Chiefs (12-4) claimed the AFC's No. 2 seed and a first-round bye by beating the Los Angeles Chargers 31-21.
Also enjoying a bye will be the top seeded Baltimore Ravens (14-2), who beat the Pittsburgh Steelers 28-10. The Patriots will be the number three seed followed by the Houston Texans (10-6), Buffalo Bills (10-6) and the Tennessee Titans (9-7).
The Titans made it in the playoffs by stopping the Texans 35-14. The Bills, who lost to the New York Jets 13-6, have a wild card game at the Texans next weekend.
After the wild card games on Saturday and Sunday, divisional round contests follow on 11-12 January.
Conference championship games are set for 19 January with the Super Bowl in Miami on 2 February.