NFL Nation: Patriots-Bills
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Graham
Elias Sports Bureau has determined that's the fewest attempts in a game since the Carolina Panthers installed a gadget, direct-snap offense to deal with the sudden need to use third-string quarterback Chris Weinke. DeShaun Foster and DeAngelo Williams combined for 49 carries in a 10-3 victory over the Atlanta Falcons.
The last time the Patriots threw so infrequently was in December 1982, the infamous Snow Plow game. Steve Grogan threw only five times to beat the Dolphins 3-0.
The New England Patriots did their part. Now they must wait. Right about the time their flight touches down they'll know their playoff fate.
The Patriots defeated the Buffalo Bills, 13-0, in windswept Ralph Wilson Stadium. The Patriots are 11-5, but still might not make the playoffs depending on what happens in two games that kick off at 4:15 p.m.
The Patriots need either the New York Jets or Jacksonville Jaguars to win. If it's the former, then the Patriots would claim the AFC East title. If it's the latter, then the Patriots would make the playoffs as the second wild card.
Buffalo, meanwhile, finished 7-9 for the third straight season under head coach Dick Jauron, who might not keep his job after guiding the Bills to a 5-1 start and then overseeing their collapse.
Conditions were so nasty in Orchard Park, N.Y., that Patriots quarterback Matt Cassel's stat line looked more like a drive breakdown: 6 of 8 for 78 yards.
The Bills coped with the loss of Marshawn Lynch, who was deactivated because of a shoulder injury. His replacement, Fred Jackson, ran 26 times for a career-high 133 yards, but the Bills couldn't get into the end zone.
Bills quarterback Trent Edwards was 14 of 25 for 128 yards and no interceptions, but he did lose a fumble.
For those angry over the possibility an 8-8 team could reach the postseason while the New England Patriots might finish with 11 wins and not qualify, perhaps you can find solace in knowing that it has happened before.
"The thing that sticks out that I remember about that season was that we lost two games to the Oakland Raiders in overtime," Dan Reeves, the coach of the 1985 Broncos, told Quincy Patriot Ledger reporter Eric McHugh.
"I just remember thinking if we get to 11-5 we'll be in the playoffs. If you win 11 games, it's hard to believe [you'd be shut out]. That kind of sticks in your craw."
Two AFC East teams could win 10 games and not reach the playoffs. That has happened 20 times in NFL history and usually in pairs. Since the NFL-AFL merger in 1970, there have been seven seasons in which two teams won 10 games but didn't advance. Although the last time that occurred was 1991.
- The Patriots would win the AFC East with an 11-5 record.
- The Ravens would clinch the second wild-card berth.
- The Jets and Dolphins both would be 10-6 and getting ready for the draft.
If the Dolphins don't reach the postseason, then they will miss out for the fourth time in franchise history despite double-digit wins. They also didn't advance in 1975, 1977 and 2003.
The Washington Redskins won 10 games but couldn't get into the playoffs three times in an 11-season stretch, from 1979 to 1989.
The AFC's first playoff domino will fall in Ralph Wilson Stadium. Whatever the Patriots do in Week 17's most important early game will affect the Dolphins-Jets and Jaguars-Ravens games at 4:15 p.m.
New England is playing better than any AFC East club yet still could miss the playoffs -- even if the Patriots record their 11th victory.
Patriots quarterback Matt Cassel is scalding hot. The first-year starter is guiding the NFL's fourth-ranked offense. He has thrown eight touchdowns and one interception in his past three games.
The most significant aspect for the Bills is that the result could impact head coach Dick Jauron's future.
Beyond that, Sunday is one final opportunity to avoid a fourth straight losing season. The Bills have known for a couple of weeks they're not going to the playoffs for the ninth year in a row.
At least in this space, let's ignore the drama and the sexy story lines. Instead, here is a breakdown of the matchups for a game that will decide the AFC East.
The best way for the Jets to win is by handing off to Pro Bowlers Thomas Jones and Leon Washington as much as possible. Jets quarterback Brett Favre has thrown one touchdown and six interceptions in his past four games.
In that same span, Miami's 25th-ranked pass defense has allowed only two passing touchdowns. Then again, Marc Bulger, J.P. Losman, Shaun Hill and Tyler Thigpen aren't exactly Favre. Or maybe they are -- this year, anyway.
Dolphins quarterback Chad Pennington has thrown nine touchdowns and two interceptions in his past five games. The Jets have the 29th-ranked pass defense, while their hallmark run defense has slipped to No. 7.
In the red zone, Miami ranks seventh on offense and ninth on defense. New York ranks 18th and 13th, respectively.
The Jets hold a substantial edge on special teams. Washington is as dangerous as they come on kick returns. The Dolphins allow an average of 24.7 yards a return and give up the third-worst starting position on kickoffs.
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1:00 PM ET Indianapolis Cincinnati 1:00 PM ET Atlanta Green Bay 1:00 PM ET Cleveland New England 1:00 PM ET Oakland New York 1:00 PM ET Detroit Philadelphia 1:00 PM ET Miami Pittsburgh 1:00 PM ET Buffalo Tampa Bay 1:00 PM ET Kansas City Washington 1:00 PM ET Minnesota Baltimore 4:05 PM ET Tennessee Denver 4:25 PM ET St. Louis Arizona 4:25 PM ET New York San Diego 4:25 PM ET Seattle San Francisco 8:30 PM ET Carolina New Orleans