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AFC East Report: Bills break postseason drought in week 17, join Patriots in the playoffs

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Let’s recap the final week of regular season action.

Buffalo Bills v Miami Dolphins Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

The 2017 NFL regular season is over – on to the playoffs. As has been the case every year since 2009, the New England Patriots represent the AFC East in the postseason. And for the second straight year, the team is joined by one of its division rivals in the tournament. Before we get ahead of ourselves, though, let's take a look at the regular season finale of the AFC East Report:

2. Buffalo Bills (9-7)

Week 17: win (22-16 against the M in, Miami Gardens FL)

The last time the Bills clinched a spot in the NFL playoffs, Bill Clinton was President of the United States, “Smooth” by Carlos Santana and Rob Thomas sat atop the Billboard Top 100, and Bill Belichick was still coaching with the New York Jets. The season was 1999 and Buffalo under head coach Wade Phillips finished it with an 11-5 record. 18 years later, the 9-7 Bills broke the longest playoff drought in the NFL.

It all started with the team's week 17 game in Miami – a must-win for Buffalo, which started the contest in perfect fashion. After the defense forced a three-and-out, Sean McDermott's team drove 72 yards in seven plays to take a 7-0 lead on a pass from Tyrod Taylor (19/27, 204 yds, 1 TD) to Nick O'Leary (1/26 yds, 1 TD). Following another big defensive series – stopping Miami on a fourth down attempt –, Buffalo added a field goal to its lead in the early second quarter.

The team continued its solid defensive play but failed to keep up on offense and for the remainder of the first half neither the Bills nor the Dolphins added to the 10-0 score. Buffalo would break the scoreless 15 minutes of game-time by kicking its second field goal on the opening series of the third quarter. Following another stop on fourth down, the visitors re-gained possession at midfield – and made the most out of it.

Buffalo drove 50 yards in five plays and went up 19-0 following a one-yard touchdown by veteran defensive tackle Kyle Williams (1/1 yds, 1 TD). At that point, the team started to show some slight weaknesses as Miami cut into the lead by scoring a field goal. The Bills responded with another field goal drive – Steven Hauschka (3/3) made his third kick of the day – but the Dolphins finally found some momentum.

The Bills surrendered touchdowns on two straight drives and saw Miami drive for the potential game-winning score. However, safety Jordan Poyer recorded an interception to seal the win. All Buffalo then needed to do was hope for the Cincinnati Bengals to defeat the Baltimore Ravens – which happened and secured the Bills their first postseason spot of the 21st century.

To watch highlights of the game, click here.

3. Miami Dolphins (6-9)

Week 17: loss (22-16 against the Buffalo Bills, in Miami Gardens FL)

One week after seeing their postseason hopes go up in flames, the Dolphins – stuck in no man's land in regards to draft positioning – could only accomplish one thing really: Keep the Bills out of the playoffs for the 18th season in a row. All that Adam Gase's squad needed to do was defeat the visitors in the two teams' week 17 meeting. Alas, Miami failed to do just that and instead fell to Buffalo 22-16.

The Dolphins started slowly into their final game of the season and went three-and-out on the game's opening possession. The defense did not fare any better and allowed the Bills to march right down the field for the game's first points and a 7-0 lead. On the second series, Miami sent David Fales (29/42, 265 yds, 1 TD, 1 INT) onto the field instead of starting quarterback Jay Cutler (1/2, 6 yds) but the offense still failed to generate any momentum.

With Fales at the helm, Miami failed to convert a 4th and 3 in scoring range. The ensuing defensive series did also not go much better and the home team found itself down 10-0 at the end. After the Bills's second quarter field goal, Miami's defense settled down a bit but the offense continued to struggle. Thus, the team entered the locker rooms at halftime down by 10.

One drive into the second half, the Dolphins' deficit increased to 13 points. Another failed fourth down attempt then set up Buffalo's second touchdown of the day. On the ensuing drive, Miami's offense was able to get onto the scoreboard via a 36-yard field goal attempt. The visitors responded with a field goal of their own and the Dolphins found themselves down 19 points early in the fourth period – at that point, the team finally came to life.

Miami capped a 10-play, 75-yard drive with a touchdown pass from Fales to Jarvis Landry (9/92 yds, 1 TD). However, it was a costly score as it led to a fight that left both Landry and running back Kenyan Drake (14/75 yds) disqualified. Despite missing the prolific duo, the Dolphins scored another touchdown to come within six points of the Bills. But despite recovering an onside kick attempt afterwards, the team failed to score again: Fales threw an interception that ended the game and Miami's season.

To watch highlights of the game, click here.

4. New York Jets (5-11)

Week 17: loss (26-6 against the New England Patriots, in Foxboro MA)

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

Patriots-Jets recap: New England defeats New York in dominant fashion with 26-6 final score

Patriots vs Jets: Who gets the game ball?

Patriots clinch homefield advantage in playoffs with win over the Jets

Patriots vs Jets: 6 observations from New England’s big 26-6 win over New York

5 winners and 3 losers from the Patriots’ 26-6 win over the Jets

Patriots vs Jets press conferences: How New England shut out New York on third down

New Year’s Eve was only fitting for former Patriots reserve-futures signing Dion Lewis

Patriots vs. Jets: Fan Notes from the Game

Snap Count Report: Jets at Patriots

To watch highlights of the game, click here.