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AFC East Report: Half the division is now officially eliminated from playoff contention

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Let’s take a look at what happened in the Patriots’ division this week.

Miami Dolphins v New York Jets Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images

While the AFC East still has two teams fighting for positioning in the conference’s playoff picture 14 weeks into the regular season, both of the other two clubs are now officially eliminated from possible postseason contention. Before getting ahead of ourselves, however, let’s take a look at how the division performed over the weekend in the latest edition of the AFC East Report.

1. New England Patriots (10-3)

Week 14: 23-16 loss against the Kansas City Chiefs, in Foxborough MA

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To watch highlights of the game, click here.

2. Buffalo Bills (9-4)

Week 14: 24-17 loss against the Baltimore Ravens, in Orchard Park NY

One of the most intriguing games of the week took place in Western New York and saw the top seed in the AFC, the Baltimore Ravens, visit the fifth-seeded Buffalo Bills. Needless to say that a lot was on the line for both teams, and the final result — a 24-17 victory by the Ravens — certainly hurt the Bills’ chances of winning the AFC East even with the Patriots losing against Kansas City later on Sunday.

The game itself began as a defensive affair and with the first three drives all ending in punts. But while Baltimore did find some offensive rhythm on its opening possession, the home team failed to gain even a single first down. With the Ravens winning the field position battle early on, they were therefore able to take a 3-0 lead on series number four. Buffalo, meanwhile, continued to struggle and later in the first quarter had its first big negative play.

On a third-and-eight at his own 33-yard line, Bills quarterback Josh Allen was sacked and fumbled the football resulting in a Ravens recovery. Just five plays later, the home team found itself in a 10-0 hold. This time, however, head coach Sean McDermott’s team was able to respond by driving 55 yards in 11 plays and getting on the board thanks to a 36-yard field goal by Stephen Hauschka.

Momentum continued to shift to Buffalo on the next drive, when linebacker Tremaine Edmunds was able to intercept a pass by Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson to give the Bills a first down inside Buffalo territory. However, the offense was unable to capitalize on the takeaway and ultimately had to punt the football away after gaining only five net yards in six plays. The unit was more successful on its next drive.

Following a defensive three-and-out, the Buffalo drove to another field goal — this one from 47 yards out — just before the half. However, the four-point deficit at intermission would quickly increase again: just three plays into the third quarter, Jackson threw a 61-yard touchdown pass that put Baltimore up 17-6. Luckily for the Bills, they were able to make it a one-possession game again on their next drive with Hauschka again successfully splitting the uprights.

After the 48-yarder, the rest of the game turned into a defensive stalemate that was only broken midway through the fourth quarter: Jackson threw another touchdown pass to put the Ravens up 24-9 with under 10 minutes remaining in the game. Not even three minutes later, however, the Bills were within seven points again as Allen and company marched 78 yards in seven plays with a 3-yard scoring pass to Cole Beasley capping the drive. Beasley then also caught a two-point attempt and Buffalo was down 24-17.

And with the defense delivering a quick stop, the Bills offense had 5:27 left to drive for the tie. But while Allen did lead his team into the opposing red zone, the series and essentially the game ended when he failed to complete with wide receiver John Brown on a fourth-and-eight. Thus, Buffalo heads into its Week 15 game against the Pittsburgh Steelers with a 9-4 record. However, the team is still in front in the race for a wildcard playoff spot.

To watch highlights of the game, click here.

3. New York Jets (5-8)

Week 14: 22-21 win against the Miami Dolphins, in East Rutherford NJ

While the first meeting between the AFC East’s bottom dwellers this season was won by the Miami Dolphins, the rematch at MetLife Stadium was decided in the home team’s favor: the New York Jets were able to beat the Dolphins 22-21 to secure their fifth victory of the season. However, Gang Green was eliminated from playoff contention despite the win and the postseason will be played without the club for the ninth year in a row.

New York started the game with the football and put together a solid-looking drive before eventually punting on fourth-and-five from the Dolphins’ 40-yard line. While Jets head coach Adam Gase can be questioned for not attempting a conversion at this part of the field, the kick did set his defense up in favorable field position. But even though the Dolphins started at their own 4-yard line, their possession ended with a score as the defense surrendered a 16-play drive that ended with a field goal.

The Jets, meanwhile, continued to build on the offensive success they had on their opening possession and marched right down the field again: it took Sam Darnold and company 10 plays to drive 74 yards, with the final 26 covered by a touchdown pass from the second-year quarterback to wide receiver Robby Anderson. Unfortunately for the club, kicker Sam Ficken was unable to make the extra point which put the Jets up only 6-3.

New York’s defense then redeemed itself for the 92-yard drive it surrendered earlier in the game: on the very first play from scrimmage after the touchdown, Nate Hairston was able to record an interception — one that set up another scoring drive. While the drive eventually stalled at the Miami 19-yard line, Ficken was more successful this time around and made a 37-yard field goal to put his team up 9-3.

Miami, meanwhile, replied with a field goal drive of its own which was answered by another New York touchdown: the Jets drove into the red zone in just five plays, before Darnold connected with ex-Patriot Demaryius Thomas on a 14-yard touchdown pass. With the extra point being good as well, New York went up by 10 points — a differential that could have increased even further just two plays later but a penalty against the Jets wiped out a 49-yard pick-six by linebacker James Burgess.

Instead, the Dolphins drove for their third field goal of the day to make it a 16-9 game at the half. Coming out of intermission, not much changed: the Jets played bend-but-don’t-break defense and gave up another field goal, before showing some early rhythm on their first possession. This time, however, the drive ended with Darnold throwing an interception that gave the visitors the ball at the New York 23-yard line. Luckily, the defense again made a stop to force a field goal attempt — one that sailed wide to the right.

Kicking remained a big part of the game in the fourth quarter, though. The Dolphins made their next two field goals and went up 18-16 midway through the fourth period. On the very next drive, a 42-yard kick by Ficken gave New York the lead again before Miami regained it with 1:33 left in the game. Darnold, however, was able to lead the offense into field goal range again and Ficken’s third field goal of the day — from 44-yards out — sealed the deal as time expired.

To watch highlights of the game, click here.

4. Miami Dolphins (3-10)

Week 14: 22-21 loss against the New York Jets, in East Rutherford NJ

Coming off a hard-fought victory against the Philadelphia Eagles, the Miami Dolphins came close to securing their fourth win of the season on the road against the New York Jets. A last-second field goal decided the contest in the home team’s favor, however, even though it ultimately helped Miami stay in good shape in the race for top draft positioning next season: after 14 weeks, the team sits at number four behind the 1-12 Cincinnati Bengals, the 2-11 New York Giants, and the 3-10 Washington Redskins.

The game in New York, meanwhile, began with the Dolphins’ defense forcing a punt that set the team’s offense up at its own 4-yard line. But despite bad field position, quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick was able to lead the troops to a 92-yard drive that lasted 16 plays and took more than eight minutes off the clock. Ultimately, kicker Jason Sanders ended the series with a 22-yard field goal that put Miami up 3-0.

The lead did not hold long, however, as the Jets had a long drive of their own — a 10-play, 74-yard series — that ended with a touchdown and missed extra point. To make matters worse, Fitzpatrick threw an interception on the very next play from scrimmage that gave the opposing offense the ball in Miami territory. The team’s defense did eventually limit the damage, though, as it held on third-and-five to force New York into kicking a field goal.

The next possession went better for the Dolphins offense as it again produced a long drive that ended with a field goal: Fitzpatrick and company marched 67 yards in 10 plays before Sanders made a 25-yard try. Once again, however, Miami’s defense was unable to stop its division rival from scoring: New York found the end zone for a second time just inside the two-minute warning to go up 16-6. Before the half, however, a 28-yard field goal by Sanders cut into the Dolphins’ deficit again.

Sanders also scored the first points of the third quarter: on the opening possession of the half, the second-year man capped a nine-play, 62-yard drive with a 31-yard kick to bring Miami within four points. Momentum seemingly continued to shift the visitors’ way on the next drive as safety Steven Parker intercepted Jets quarterback Sam Darnold. However, the offense could not capitalize on the pick and ensuing good field position and had to watch Sanders miss his fifth attempt of the day wide to the right from 34 yards out.

Luckily for the Dolphins, their defense forced a stop on fourth-and-one on the next series, even though the offense again was unable to do much with the ball. Ultimately, however, Miami did score next as Sanders returned to form on a 53-yard kick midway through the fourth quarter — one that made it a 16-15 game. And after the defense forced a three-and-out, Sanders’ sixth field goal of the afternoon put his team up front by two points.

The Jets replied with a field goal of their own to re-take the lead, but with four minutes left in the game Fitzpatrick and company were in a position to drive for the potential game-clinching score. With 1:33 left on the clock, a 37-yarder from Sanders put his team up 21-19 and all that was left to do for the defense was making a stop. It couldn’t: the Jets drove into field goal range — in parts because of a would-be stop on third-and-18 that was turned into defensive pass interference by the replay official — and kicked the game-winner as time expired.

To watch highlights of the game, click here.