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AFC East Report: Week 17; Patriots and Jets blow out Dolphins and Bills in season finale

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The last week of the season saw two lopsided AFC East games.

The 2016 regular season is over, which means that only 12 teams are left standing in their pursuit of the Lombardi Trophy. Two of those teams reside in the AFC East as the New England Patriots and Miami Dolphins will both try to represent the conference in the Super Bowl.

The Buffalo Bills and New York Jets, on the other hand, have already started their offseason. And it will be an interesting one for both teams: The Bills currently lack a head coach while the Jets lack depth and talent across their roster.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves and take one final look back in this season’s final installment of the AFC East Report:

2. Miami Dolphins (10-6)

Week 17: loss (35-14 against the New England Patriots, in Miami Gardens FL)

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

Patriots clinch homefield advantage, crush Dolphins 35-14

5 instant observations from the Patriots 35-14 victory over the Dolphins

Patriots earn number one playoff seed for the sixth time in franchise history

NFL playoff schedule 2017: Patriots clinch #1 seed, homefield advantage

Patriots RB LeGarrette Blount on Dolphins DT Ndamukong Suh: "He’s a dirty player."

AFC playoff seeding settled; Patriots open either against Texans, Raiders or Dolphins

10 winners and 4 losers from the Patriots 35-14 victory over the Dolphins

Week 17 Patriots vs Dolphins snap counts: Did Bill Belichick help Chris Long earn $250,000?

Patriots vs. Dolphins: Fan Notes from the Game

In numbers: Patriots’ 35-14 win over Dolphins

To watch highlights of the game, click here.

3. Buffalo Bills (7-9)

Week 17: loss (30-10 against the New York Jets, in East Rutherford NJ)

After firing head coach Rex Ryan five days earlier, offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn took over the Buffalo Bills for their season finale at the New York Jets. It was not the only change the team made, as starting quarterback Tyrod Taylor was inactive for the contest. He was replaced by former first round pick E.J. Manuel (9/20, 86 yds), who struggled mightily in his first start of the year.

While the Bills looked out of sync on offense, punting on their first four possessions, the defense looked better – at least early on. It was able to get a stop on 4th and 1 to thwart a Jets scoring opportunity and held the team in the game in the first quarter. However, in the second period, the unit could not stop New York from scoring the first touchdown of the game.

After an exchange of punts, Buffalo then went on its best drive of the day; marching 54 yards in 11 plays. However, the team failed to score a touchdown as Manuel missed a wide open Charles Clay (3/20 yds) on 3rd down. The Bills had to settle for three and with only 1:45 left in the first half, allowed the home team to march down the field. New York kicked a field goal to take a 10-3 halftime lead.

The third quarter started like the first: ineffective offense on both sides and a fourth down stop by Buffalo. On the Bills’ subsequent possession, though, things started to unravel. Manuel was sacked deep in his own territory, fumbled the football and turned it over to the Jets. Three plays later, New York scored a touchdown. Buffalo’s next drive also ended with a giveaway in Bills territory as running back Jonathan Williams coughed up the ball – leading to a field goal.

The lowest point and one of the biggest blunders of the year, however, came in the fourth quarter. After benching Manuel for Cardale Jones (6/11, 96 yds, 1 INT), the rookie threw an interception which led to another Jets field goal. On the ensuing kickoff, Buffalo’s special teams unit watched the football bounce into the endzone – and be recovered by New York for a touchdown. The Bills then scored a touchdown themselves – a 2-yard Mike Gillislee (15/40 yds, 1 TD) run – but it was too little too late. Buffalo lost Anthony Lynn’s only game as interim head coach 30-10; the worst loss of another lost season.

Due to their 7-9 record, the Bills hold the 10th pick in the 2017 draft.

To watch highlights of the game, click here.

4. New York Jets (5-11)

Week 17: win (30-10 against the Buffalo Bills, in East Rutherford NJ)

Entering Sunday’s game against the Buffalo Bills, the Jets scored only 16.3 points per game. They scored almost double that against their struggling week 17 opponent – and it could have been even more. After punting on the first possession, the Jets started to move the football relatively well. While their second series was stopped on fourth down in the Bills’ red zone, their third ended with a touchdown pass from Ryan Fitzpatrick (20/30, 210 yds, 2 TDs) to Bilal Powell (25 touches/137 yds, 1 TD).

The defense allowed Buffalo to score a field goal late in the second quarter but Fitzpatrick and the offense responded with a 10-play, 63-yard drive to make it a 10-3 game at halftime. Early in the third quarter, Powell was again stopped on a fourth down attempt in scoring range. However, the Jets defense got the ball back six plays later when linebacker Jordan Jenkins forced and recovered a Bills fumble.

New York’s offense took advantage of the good field position as Fitzpatrick threw his second touchdown of the day, this time to Jalin Marshall (3/22 yds, 1 TD). New York’s defense made another big play on the very next drive, when Sheldon Richardson forced and recovered a fumble. Again, the Jets were able to capitalize on a takeaway and converted it into three more points to take a 20-3 lead heading into the final period.

The fourth quarter started with four straight punts before Darrelle Revis recorded his first interception of the year to set up another Jets field goal. On the ensuing kickoff, New York scored again: While the Bills watched the football bounce into the endzone, Jets special teamer Doug Middleton knew what to do and jumped onto the ball for another score. New York gave up a touchdown late in the fourth quarter but was never in danger of actually letting its opponent come back into the game.

While the top of the Bills’ coaching staff will look different next season, the Jets have made it clear that head coach Todd Bowles will return in 2017. It remains to be seen if the stability provided by retaining Bowls will help the team improve in 2017. Given that the team lacks depth and talent on both sides of the ball, he will have his hands full next season.

Due to their 5-11 record, the Jets hold the 6th pick in the 2017 draft.

To watch highlights of the game, click here.