Bills clinch AFC East as Patriots limp into playoffs

The first round of the playoffs will run through Buffalo.

One game, at least.

With a 27-10 win over the New York Jets on Sunday, the Buffalo Bills clinched the AFC East's best record at 11-6. Minutes earlier, the New England Patriots lost 33-24 to the Miami Dolphins, ensuring the division title for the Bills regardless of their own game's outcome.

January football in Buffalo

The AFC East championship ensures that the Bills will hold the advantage of a January home game in Buffalo during next week's wild-card round. It also marks a disappointing end to a Patriots regular season that was once riding the high of a seven-game win streak. But they're still playoff bound after snapping an 11-year playoff run last season.

It wasn't always pretty for the Bills on Sunday, who struggled to score early against a Jets defense that entered Sunday ranked last in the NFL in points and yards allowed per game. But quarterback Josh Allen broke free for a 32-yard scramble early in the fourth quarter that set up a Devin Singletary touchdown for a 20-10 lead that effectively put the game out of reach of an impotent Jets offense.

Buffalo's top-ranked defense looked playoff-ready, holding the the Jets to 53 total yards of offense and four first downs. Jets quarterback Zach Wilson capped a disappointing rookie season completing 7-of-20 pass attempts for 87 yards with a touchdown. He gave most of that yardage back while being sacked eight times for a loss of 79 yards.

ORCHARD PARK, NEW YORK - JANUARY 09: Josh Allen #17 of the Buffalo Bills scrambles against the New York Jets during the first quarter at Highmark Stadium on January 09, 2022 in Orchard Park, New York. (Photo by Timothy T Ludwig/Getty Images)
Josh Allen has led the Bills to consecutive division titles. (Timothy T Ludwig/Getty Images)

Patriots stumble into wild-card berth

The Patriots, meanwhile, mounted a late rally after digging a 24-10 fourth-quarter hole to the Dolphins. Damien Harris punched in a 1-yard touchdown to cut the Patriots' deficit to 27-24 with 2:53 remaining. But the Dolphins were able to all but run out the clock when they got the ball back, thanks in large part to an 11-yard scramble by Tua Tagovailoa on third-and-8 with 1:56 remaining.

After a seven-game win streak put the Patriots in charge of the division with a 9-4 record, they'll enter the playoffs having lost three of four games to finish 10-7 with their only win in that run over the Jacksonville Jaguars. They'll start the playoffs on the road next week as a wild-card team.