Sun Jan 16 2:08am ET
By JONAH BRONSTEIN
New England Patriots owner Bob Kraft walks the field during practice before an NFL wild-card playoff football game against the Buffalo Bills, Saturday, Jan. 15, 2022, in Orchard Park, N.Y. (AP Photo/Adrian Kraus)
New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick works the sidelines during the first half of an NFL wild-card playoff football game against the Buffalo Bills, Saturday, Jan. 15, 2022, in Orchard Park, N.Y. (AP Photo/Adrian Kraus)
New England Patriots quarterback Mac Jones (10) runs off the field at halftime of an NFL wild-card playoff football game against the Buffalo Bills, Saturday, Jan. 15, 2022, in Orchard Park, N.Y. (AP Photo/Joshua Bessex)
New England Patriots quarterback Mac Jones (10) runs the ball under pressure from Buffalo Bills defensive end Jerry Hughes (55) during the first half of an NFL wild-card playoff football game, Saturday, Jan. 15, 2022, in Orchard Park, N.Y. (AP Photo/Joshua Bessex)
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) After gaining so much ground during Mac Jones' rookie season, the New England Patriots faltered at the finish.
Throttled 47-17 by the Buffalo Bills in a wild-card playoff game on Saturday night, the loss showed how much progress the Patriots still need to make to close the gap on their AFC East rivals.
''Losing is terrible,'' Jones said. ''None of us wanted to do that tonight. But there's nothing we can do about it now. There's a lot to look forward to and positive and learn from.''
Jones and the Patriots made strides turning around their season following a 2-4 start, putting together a seven-game win streak to make the playoffs for the first time in two seasons since Tom Brady left New England for Tampa Bay.
But their progress stalled after a 14-10 win at Buffalo in Week 13 put them atop the division standings. The Patriots struggled coming out of their bye week, losing three of four, before suffering their worst postseason defeat since a 46-10 loss to the 1985 Chicago Bears.
The loss was the most lopsided in the playoffs during Bill Belichick's tenure, which began in 2000, and second-worst overall after Buffalo opened the 2003 season with a 31-0 victory.
Suddenly, the tables have begun turning on a proud Patriots franchise which won 17 division titles and six Super Bowls under Belichick, and was 35-5 against Buffalo from 2000 to 2019. New England has now dropped four of the last five meetings with Buffalo, which has staked its claim to the division by winning two straight titles.
The Bills dominated the Patriots in this one, much like they were once dominated by New England.
Buffalo became the NFL's first team to score touchdowns on each of its seven possessions not ending with a kneeldown. And the 47 points scored were the most against a Belichick-coached Patriots team.
''Shoot, every drive we couldn't get a stop was frustrating,'' New England linebacker Matthew Judon said. ''It wasn't only one drive. It wasn't only one play. It wasn't one single player. It was everything. It was the whole game.''
The struggles carried over from the final weeks of the season.
''If I could, I would've done everything to try to get it turned around,'' defensive captain Devin McCourty said. ''Going from a team that was 2-4, just fighting, trying to get back to being the team that was atop the AFC at one point. You have to execute at a high level once that happens. And we didn't, for whatever reasons. We'll have a lot of time to think about that.''
Jones was the first rookie quarterback to start a playoff game for the Patriots. He finished 24 of 38 passing for 232 yards with two touchdowns, and was intercepted twice while taking two sacks.
''We didn't have a chance to win the game, and it starts with me,'' Jones said. ''Just getting momentum early, and not putting ourselves in that position.''
The Patriots fell to 4-7 this season when failing to score first and 2-7 when going scoreless in the first quarter.
''Embarrassing,'' was how McCourty characterized the effort from the Patriots defense. ''We really shouldn't perform like that.''
Whatever momentum the the Patriots' offense generated was snuffed out by turnovers. Jones was intercepted by Micah Hyde on a deep pass to Nelson Agholor in the end zone on New England's first possession. And he had a tipped pass picked off by Levi Wallace on the opening drive of the second half.
''I can make a better throw,'' Jones said. ''Our goal was not to turn the ball over. And it happened. That's just a part of the game, I guess. But it's something I can learn from.''
Jones vowed that he and the Patriots will come back better next season.
''I always related it back to being a pilot,'' he said. ''If you are a pilot and you have only flown so many times, when you have hundreds of flight hours, it's just an everyday thing for you. For me, obviously I was a rookie, and I played like that sometimes. And I shouldn't have. I can play better.''
New England Patriots quarterback Mac Jones completed 24-of-38 passes for 232 yards, two touchdowns, and two interceptions in Saturday's 47-17 AFC Wild Card loss to the Buffalo Bills. He threw a costly interception in the end zone during the team's opening drive. The 23-year-old salvaged his fantasy day by connecting with wide receiver Kendrick Bourne twice as the Patriots were in catch-up mode the entire game. Jones flashed upside during his rookie campaign after throwing for 22 touchdowns over 17 games and is considered a low-end fantasy QB2 in 2022 fantasy drafts.
Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen completed 21-of-25 passes for 308 yards with five touchdowns and no interceptions in Saturday's AFC Wild-Card win over the New England Patriots. He completed all 10 of his 10-plus-yard passes and led the Bills to seven touchdown drives in their first seven possessions. The 25-year-old connected with tight end Dawson Knox twice, Emmanuel Sanders, Gabriel Davis, and Tommy Doyle for all five of his touchdown passes. Allen will look to build on his impressive performance in next week's Divisional Round.
Former Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores is viewed as the strong favorite to land the head-coaching job for the Houston Texans after he interviewed with the team on Friday. The Texans fired previous head coach David Culley late in the week after Miami moved on from Flores. Flores has strong ties to Texans general manager Nick Caserio and executive Jack Easterby from their time together in New England. Flores won eight of his final nine games with the Dolphins. Perhaps most importantly, Flores was the main reason the Dolphins pursued Houston quarterback Deshaun Watson at the trade deadline this year. "I'm telling you, Nick is going to come out of this looking like a genius," said one high-ranking NFL exec who knows Caserio well. "He and Flores go way back. That is a perfect fit. And, it's going to help him keep that quarterback. Just watch."
Las Vegas Raiders Darren Waller caught seven of 12 targets for 76 yards in Saturday's AFC Wild-Card game loss to the Cincinnati Bengals. He led the Raiders in receiving and topped 75 yards for the first time since Week 11. It was also the first time since Week 9 the Raiders star tight end reached double digits in targets. The 29-year-old is a strong bounce-back candidate in 2022 after catching 55 passes for 665 yards and two touchdowns over 11 games in 2021. Waller is under contract with the Raiders for two more seasons and enters 2022 fantasy drafts as a top-five tight end.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Bruce Arians is expected to return for next season. There was some speculation that Arians would ride off into the sunset after the Buccaneers won the Super Bowl last year, but that turned out not to be the case. And some were speculating that the 2021 season would be his last, but that also turns out to be untrue. The 69-year-old is in his third season with Tampa and has led the team to a 31-18 overall record. Before joining the Bucs, Arians was the head coach of the Arizona Cardinals from 2013-17 and was the interim head coach for the Indianapolis Colts in 2012. The Buccaneers will look to win their wild-card game under Arians against the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday morning.
Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow completed 24-of-34 pass attempts for 244 yards and two touchdowns in Saturday's AFC Wild-Card game win over the Las Vegas Raiders. He led the Bengals to their first playoff win since 1991. The former No. 1 overall pick entered Saturday's game red hot, throwing eight touchdowns and no interceptions over his last two games. He did most of his damage early by connecting with wide receiver Tyler Boyd and tight end C.J. Uzomah for his two scores in the first half of Saturday's win. Burrow recorded a 104.1 passer rating and will look to stay hot in the round of the playoffs.
Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase caught nine of 12 targets for 116 yards and ran for 23 yards on three carries in Saturday's AFC Wild-Card game win over the Las Vegas Raiders. He was an unstoppable force who led the team in targets and received yards in Saturday's win. The star rookie caught three 15-plus-yard passes and continues to be Cincinnati QB Joe Burrow's top target. Chase has recorded over 100 yards receiving in three of his last four games and will look to continue his impressive play in the Divisional Round of the playoffs next week.
The New York Jets expect left tackle Mekhi Becton (knee), who only played in one game this year due to a frustrating knee injury, to be ready for offseason workouts this spring. Weight has been an issue for Becton since before he entered the NFL, and it sabotaged his rehab this season. The second-year left tackle stands at 6-foot-7, 370 pounds and can be a difference-maker for New York's offensive line, but he'll need to get healthy and in shape this offseason. Becton officially dislocated his right kneecap in the first game of the season and his recovery timeline was initially around two months. He is critical to the Jets offensive success moving forward and for young quarterback Zach Wilson, so it's worth watching Becton's rehab this offseason.
Los Angeles Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford (toe) practiced in full all week and will play on Monday night against the Arizona Cardinals to close out super wild-card weekend. Stafford picked up a minor toe injury in the Week 18 regular season finale, but it shouldn't affect him in the first week of the postseason. He's only the No. 7 QB at DraftKings based on price ($6,200) at his position for the week, but he'll be taking on a Cardinals defense that has allowed the fifth-most fantasy points per game to QBs in the last three weeks. And in two games against the Cardinals this year, Stafford has completed 69% of his 71 attempts for 567 yards, five touchdowns and one interception for a QB rating of 110.5. Stafford's floor is high this week, and he has the potential to be a fine DFS value.
Arizona Cardinals star pass-rusher J.J. Watt (shoulder) is making the trip to Los Angeles for Monday's wild-card game against the division-rival Rams, paving the way for him to be activated from Injured Reserve and play. It would complete a dramatic recovery for Watt after he suffered a serious shoulder injury earlier in the season. The All-Pro defensive end hasn't played since Week 7, though, so even if he's active on Monday, there's a good chance that he won't be an every-down player for Arizona's defense. Still, Watt could make an impact with his pass-rushing prowess as the Cardinals look to slow down LA's high-powered offense. Before his injury in Week 7, Watt registered 16 tackles (10 solo), five tackles for loss, 10 QB hits, one forced fumble and one sack.
Arizona Cardinals rookie wide receiver Rondale Moore (ankle) was limited in practice all week and is questionable to play on Monday night against the Los Angeles Rams in the wild-card game. Moore has been out since Week 15, so even if he's able to return for the first round of the playoffs, he'll likely have a limited role as the No. 4 pass-catcher behind Christian Kirk, A.J. Green and Antoine Wesley. On the season in 14 games in his rookie year, Moore caught 54 of his 64 targets for 435 receiving yards and one touchdown. Kirk has been the team's top receiver with DeAndre Hopkins (knee) injured, but quarterback Kyler Murray has done a good job of spreading things around in Arizona's passing attack. Moore should be faded in fantasy contests if he plays.
Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Van Jefferson (shoulder) was limited in practice for the second straight day on Saturday and is questionable to play in Monday's wild-card tilt against the division-rival Arizona Cardinals. Jefferson will be a low-cost DFS sleeper if he's active on Monday night against a Cardinals defense that he torched in two games during the regular season for an 8-148-2 line on nine targets. He had only 2.9 catches per game in 17 contests, but he managed 802 yards and six touchdowns in his second season in LA. If he plays and can break free for a couple long gains and maybe a score, Jefferson could return some nice value for fantasy managers. If he's out, rookie Ben Skowronek will be the No. 3 receiver behind Cooper Kupp and Odell Beckham Jr.
Arizona Cardinals running back Chase Edmonds (ribs, toe) practiced in full on Saturday and was removed from the final injury report for Monday's wild-card game against the Los Angeles Rams. Edmonds was confident earlier in the week that he would play after he missed the Week 18 regular season finale. He could be a fine RB value in DFS at his $5,000 DraftKings price tag for the week if James Conner (ribs), who is questionable to play, is inactive on Monday night. If Conner is given the green light during pre-game warmups, Edmonds will be in a timeshare in Arizona's backfield. Edmonds disappointed during the regular season with only two touchdowns in 12 games, but he did average a career-high 5.1 yards per carry on 116 rushing attempts, and he saw 34 carries for 109 yards and a touchdown while adding 13 receptions for 100 yards in Weeks 16 and 17 as the lead back with Conner injured.
Arizona Cardinals running back James Conner (ribs) was able to practice on a limited basis on Saturday after two missed practices earlier in the week, and he's officially questionable to play on Monday night against the Los Angeles Rams. Conner will be a game-time decision, making him an extremely shaky DFS play, especially at his $6,200 DraftKings price. Chase Edmonds (ribs, toe), who sat out in the Week 18 regular season finale, is off the final injury report and will play as well. So if Conner is active, his fantasy ceiling will be much lower with Edmonds sharing touches with him out of Arizona's backfield. Running back Jonathan Ward (knee) is also questionable after putting in a limited practice on Saturday. If both Conner and Ward are out, Eno Benjamin would back up Edmonds.
Updating a previous report, New England Patriots LB Ja'Whaun Bentley (arm) exited the Wild Card game against the Buffalo Bills Saturday, Jan. 15, with an arm injury and is questionable to return.
New England Patriots LB Ja'Whaun Bentley (undisclosed) exited the Wild Card playoff game against the Buffalo Bills Saturday, Jan. 15, and went to the locker room.
Cincinnati Bengals QB Joe Burrow completed 24 of 34 for 244 yards, two touchdowns and no turnovers vs. the Las Vegas Raiders in Wild Card Weekend on Saturday, Jan. 15. RB Joe Mixon (ankle) rushed 17 times for 48 yards and caught four of five targets for 28 yards before exiting in the second half with an ankle injury. WR Ja'Marr Chase caught nine of 12 targets for 116 yards and rushed three times for 23 yards. WR Tyler Boyd hauled in four passes for 26 yards and a touchdown on five looks, and WR Tee Higgins was held to a 10-yard reception on four targets. TE C.J. Uzomah caught all six targets for 64 yards and a touchdown. LB Logan Wilson made 12 total tackles, including nine solo stops, and recorded a pass defensed. LB Germaine Pratt made six solo tackles, three assists, a tackle for loss, one pass defensed, and the game-sealing interception.
Las Vegas Raiders QB Derek Carr threw for 310 yards with one touchdown and an interception on 29-for-54 passing at the Cincinnati Bengals in Wild Card Weekend on Saturday, Jan. 15. He ran once for 20 yards and lost a fumble. RB Josh Jacobs rushed 13 times for 83 yards and caught four of five targets for 44 yards. WR Hunter Renfrow caught eight passes for 54 yards on 11 looks, while WR Zay Jones landed five of eight targets for 61 yards and a touchdown. TE Darren Waller paced the Raiders with 76 yards on seven catches (12 targets). LB Denzel Perryman led the team with nine tackles, including six solo stops. DE Maxx Crosby tallied three solo tackles, three assists, a sack, two tackles for loss, and two quarterback hits.
New England Patriots wide receiver Jakobi Meyers (thigh) is active for Saturday night's wild-card game against the Buffalo Bills. Meyers practiced all week and wasn't in any real danger of sitting out this weekend. He was tops among all Patriots receivers in targets from rookie quarterback Mac Jones, but he was only able to find the end zone twice all year. It makes Meyers a low-ceiling fantasy wideout, and he'll be facing a tough Bills defense on the road in frigid temperatures on top of it. Buffalo's defense allowed the fewest fantasy points per game to WRs in 2021, and Meyers had only six catches on eight targets for 59 yards in two games against the Bills this year, although one of those games came when Jones attempted only three passes all game. Receiver Kristian Wilkerson is a healthy scratch for the Pats.
New England Patriots running back Damien Harris (hamstring) is officially active for Saturday night's wild-card game against the Buffalo Bills. Harris was limited in practice all week and was never really in danger of missing this game. He has been New England's lead back late in the season and went for over 100 rushing yards in both games against the Bills this year. However, it'll be tough to do that for a third straight game, and rookie Rhamondre Stevenson and Brandon Bolden remain threats to take touches away from Harris as New England tries to pull the upset on the road. Harris is the best fantasy bet of New England's backs and will be a touchdown-dependent second DFS RB on wild-card weekend.