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AFC East Report: Week 16; Dolphins stay ahead in playoff race while eliminating Bills from postseason contention

Miami is trying to join New England in the postseason.

NFL week 16 saw two divisional games in the AFC East: The New England Patriots played the New York Jets while the Buffalo Bills hosted the Miami Dolphins. The first of the two games was a blowout as the Patriots defeated the Jets by 38 points. Bills versus Dolphins, however, was a much closer contest.

So, without any further ado, let's take a look at it in this week’s edition of the AFC East report:

2. Miami Dolphins (10-5)

Week 16: win (34-31 in overtime against the Buffalo Bills, in Orchard Park NY)

For the first time since 2008, the Miami Dolphins will finish a season with double-digit wins — and possibly a spot in the playoffs. Their 34-31 overtime win in Buffalo secures the first one and helped the team keep the inside track for the second. Led by backup quarterback Matt Moore (16/30, 233 yds, 2 TDs, 1 INT), Miami jumped to a 7-0 lead thanks to a two-yard Jay Ajayi (32/206 yds, 1 TD) scoring run.

Ajayi, who was once again the Dolphins’ best offensive player, was the focal point of the offense. However, it was another running back — Kenyan Drake (4/56 yds, 1 TD) — that expanded the lead to 14-0 on Miami’s next possession. At that point, the home team started to fight back and scored its first touchdown before stopping another possible scoring drive by picking off Moore in the end zone late in the second half.

The third quarter did saw the Dolphins score as Moore connected with receiver DeVante Parker (4/85, 1 TD) for a 56-yard touchdown on the opening drive of the second half. At that point, the game had turned into a shootout. Each team scored on its first two possessions of the second half with Miami’s second being a 6-yard pass from Moore to Kenny Stills (3/35 yds, 1 TD). The Dolphins could have made it three straight scoring drives had kicker Andrew Franks (2/3) not missed a 46-yarder early in the fourth period.

After the failed kick, the Bills scored 10 more points (they had 17 unanswered at that point) to put Miami in a 3-point hole with 1:20 left in the game. However, the Dolphins’ offense marched to the Bills’ 37-yard line to set up a game-tying, career-high, 55-yard kick for Franks. He made it and the two teams headed into overtime tied at 31. The extra period started with a missed Bills’ field goal attempt before the two teams exchanged punts. A 57-yard run by Ajayi finally brought the Dolphins into scoring range and Andrew Franks sealed the game from 27 yards out.

With their win in Buffalo, the Dolphins stay in good position to make the playoffs as one of the two wild-card teams. If the Denver Broncos do not win tonight or next week, Miami is in. The team also is if it beats New England at home next week. If neither happens, the Dolphins still have a chance to reach the playoffs but they are dependent on other things happening.

To watch highlights of the game, click here.

3. Buffalo Bills (7-8)

Week 16: loss (34-31 in overtime against the Miami Dolphins, in Orchard Park NY)

While the Dolphins positioned themselves well to earn a spot in the playoffs, the Buffalo Bills have been eliminated from postseason contention for the 17th straight season. Their chances to reach the playoffs were slim to begin with but yesterday’s loss officially put the nail in the coffin for Rex Ryan’s team. The Bills came close to beating Miami and staying alive in the playoff race but ultimately were unable to do so.

Buffalo started slow on offense, going three-and-out on its first two possessions, while simultaneously allowing Miami to take a 7-0 lead. The Bills had a chance to get on the board late in the first quarter but Dan Carpenter (1/3) missed a 46-yard field goal attempt. The home team’s miscues continued in the second quarter. First, the Dolphins took advantage of the solid field position following the errant kick and went ahead 14-0 on a 45-yard run which saw multiple Bills defenders miss tackles. Then, the Bills’ next possession ended with a fourth down stop.

However, at that point, the Bills finally started to show signs of life. A 38-yard touchdown pass from Tyrod Taylor (26/39, 329, 3 TDs) to Sammy Watkins (7/154 yds, 1 TD) cut the deficit to seven points before a Corey White endzone interception stopped the Dolphins from potentially scoring a third time in the first half. Consequently, Buffalo headed into halftime down 14-7.

While the first half was largely dominated by defense, the second half turned into an offensive affair. The Dolphins scored a touchdown to open the half but the Bills answered with a LeSean McCoy (24/128, 1 TD) 19-yard scoring run. The visitors scored another touchdown on their next possession before Buffalo started to take over the game. Starting with Taylor’s second touchdown pass of the day — an 18-yarder to Charles Clay (8/85 yds, 2 TD) — the Bills scored 17 unanswered points. This lead to a 31-28 Buffalo lead with 1:20 to go in the game when Taylor and Clay connected for a second time.

However, things went downhill from there. First, the defense was unable to stop Miami from getting into field goal range. Then, Rex Ryan failed at icing the kicker, who made a career-long 55-yarder to tie the game. In overtime, the Bills’ kicker missed his second shot of the day (this one from 45 yards out) before the defense — after an exchange of punts — gave up a 57-yard rush to set up the Dolphins’ game-winning kick. A kick, which ended Buffalo’s playoff hopes for good.

To watch highlights of the game, click here.

4. New York Jets (4-11)

Week 16: loss (41-3 against the New England Patriots, in Foxboro MA)

Pats Pulpit is already in the process of analyzing this game:

Patriots spoil Christmas for the Jets with 41-3 final score

8 instant observations from the Patriots 41-3 win over the Jets

Patriots proved they’re ready for the playoffs with a complete demolition of a lifeless Jets squad

3 winners and 2 losers and 1 megaloser from the Patriots 41-3 win over the Jets

Patriots CB Malcolm Butler completely redeemed himself against the Jets

Mike Reiss: Patriots DT Malcom Brown was late to a meeting this week

Jets head coach Todd Bowles was “startled” by Patriots decision to run ball so much

In numbers: Patriots’ 41-3 win over Jets

To watch highlights of the game, click here.