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FFL: Offseason | NFL: Divisional

Patriots beat Bills 24-17, win 11th straight AFC East crown

Sat Dec 21 8:02pm ET
By JIMMY GOLEN
AP Sports Writer

Players: Tom Brady, Nick Folk, Julian Edelman, Cole Beasley, John Brown, Rex Burkhead, Matt LaCosse, Sony Michel, Josh Allen, Dawson Knox

New England Patriots running back Rex Burkhead breaks loose from an attempted tackle to run for a touchdown against the Buffalo Bills in the second half of an NFL football game, Saturday, Dec. 21, 2019, in Foxborough, Mass. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)


New England Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman, top, gets a lift from offensive tackle Isaiah Wynn after catching a pass for a two-point conversion in the second half of an NFL football game against the Buffalo Bills, Saturday, Dec. 21, 2019, in Foxborough, Mass. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)


Buffalo Bills wide receiver John Brown catches a pass before running for a touchdown in the second half of an NFL football game against the New England Patriots, Saturday, Dec. 21, 2019, in Foxborough, Mass. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)


Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen passes against the New England Patriots in the first half of an NFL football game, Saturday, Dec. 21, 2019, in Foxborough, Mass. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)


Buffalo Bills tight end Dawson Knox, right, catches a pass in front of New England Patriots safety Patrick Chung the first half of an NFL football game, Saturday, Dec. 21, 2019, in Foxborough, Mass. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)


Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen, left, celebrates his touchdown pass to offensive tackle Dion Dawkins, center, in the first half of an NFL football game against the New England Patriots, Saturday, Dec. 21, 2019, in Foxborough, Mass. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)


Buffalo Bills offensive tackle Dion Dawkins catches a touchdown pass against the New England Patriots in the first half of an NFL football game, Saturday, Dec. 21, 2019, in Foxborough, Mass. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)


Buffalo Bills tight end Dawson Knox, right, catches a pass in front of New England Patriots safety Patrick Chung the first half of an NFL football game, Saturday, Dec. 21, 2019, in Foxborough, Mass. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)


New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady passes against the Buffalo Bills in the first half of an NFL football game, Saturday, Dec. 21, 2019, in Foxborough, Mass. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)


FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) Tom Brady passed for 271 yards and a touchdown, sneaked for a third-down conversion to set up another score and threw a downfield block on another scoring drive to help the New England Patriots clinch their 11th AFC East title in a row by beating Buffalo 24-17 on Saturday.

With Bills visiting for a rare late-season matchup while the division was still at stake, Sony Michel ran for 96 yards and Rex Burkhead rebounded for an opening-drive fumble to catch four passes for 77 yards and run for 20 more. Both teams had already clinched playoff berths; the Patriots (12-3) remain in contention for a first-round bye or even the No. 1 seed in the AFC.

Josh Allen completed 13 of 26 passes for 208 yards and ran for 43 more, including a first down on fourth-and-1 from the Patriots 30 with about three minutes left. After driving to the New England 8, Allen over threw Dawson Knox in the end zone and then was sacked by Adam Butler. Facing fourth-and-goal from the 15 with just over one minute left, he was forced out of the pocket and had to throw the ball up for grabs in the end zone, where it was knocked down by J.C. Jackson.

Cole Beasley caught seven passes for 108 yards, and John Brown had a 53-yard touchdown reception for the Bills (10-5), who have qualified for the playoffs for the second time since 1999. They have not won a playoff game since 1995, following their last division title, when Marv Levy's team beat Don Shula's Miami Dolphins in the wild-card round.

Brady, who is 42 and nursing a right elbow injury, improved to 32-3 against the Bills, and Buffalo hasn't beaten the Patriots in six games under coach Sean McDermott. This one was clinched when Burkhead ran it in from 1 yard with 5:11 left; Brady found Julian Edelman for the 2-point conversion to make it a seven-point game.

The Bills made only one big play in the first 29 minutes, when safety Jordan Poyer punched the ball out of Burkhead's hands, and Micah Hyde returned it 31 yards to the New England 31. That led to a field goal and a 3-0 lead.

Brady responded with a 75-yard drive, going 5-for-5 and hitting Matt LaCosse for an 8-yard score that made it 7-3. It was the three-time NFL MVP's 539th TD pass, tying Peyton Manning for second behind Drew Brees, to Brady's 76th different receiver, extending what was already a record.

After a Buffalo three-and-out, New England started on its 1 and went 17 plays before Nick Folk made a field goal from 36 yards. But a failed attempt on fourth-and-inches with 36 seconds left gave the Bills one more chance before the break.

Allen connected on two passes before dropping one in on Dawson Knox for 33 yards; although it was originally ruled a touchdown, replays showed he was brought down at the 1. Two plays later, 320-pound tackle Dion Dawkins was wide open for the touchdown that sent it into the half tied 10-10.

After the Patriots opened the second with Folk's 51-yard field goal - the team's first attempt from more than 50 yards all season - Allen connected with Brown from 53 yards to make it 17-13. It was Allen's longest pass of the season.

But Brady led New England to a field goal and touchdown its last two full possessions, then the defense protected the lead by stopping the Bills.

Allen has thrown for a touchdown in 21 straight games, breaking Doug Flutie's franchise record from 1998-99.

INJURIES

Bills: C Mitch Morse had his lower right leg being worked on late in the game.

Patriots: DB Jason McCourty, who missed last week's game, left the game after aggravating a groin injury. OL Marcus Cannon left with an ankle injury and did not return. WR Julian Edelman appeared to enter the concussion protocol after a collision that led to an offensive pass interference penalty against him. He went to the blue tent and then the locker room but returned to the game.

UP NEXT

Bills: Host the New York Jets on Sunday.

Patriots: Host Miami on Sunday.

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Player Notes
Ryan Kerrigan Jan 15 9:43pm ET

Washington Football Team impending free-agent DE Ryan Kerrigan said there has not been any contract talks between him and Washington at this point.

From TheHuddle

Taysom Hill Jan 15 9:10pm ET

New Orleans Saints running back Latavius Murray (quadriceps) and quarterback Taysom Hill (knee) were both listed as questionable for the Divisional Round matchup against the Buccaneers on Sunday after getting in limited practices on Friday. The fact that they both practiced on Friday is good news for their chances of suiting up for the third meeting this year against the Bucs. If Murray, 31, cannot play, Alvin Kamara would have even more fantasy upside and would likely see more red-zone work against a stingy Buccaneers defensive front. Dwayne Washington and Ty Montgomery would help back up Kamara. Hill would likely only see a handful of snaps as a Swiss Army Knife on Sunday if he plays, making him avoidable in most fantasy lineups if he's active.

From RotoBaller

Baltimore Ravens Jan 15 9:00pm ET

Baltimore Ravens cornerback Marcus Peters (back) and offensive guard D.J. Fluker (knee) were both listed as questionable for the Divisional Round game against the Bills on Saturday night. Peters and Fluker were both limited in practice on Thursday, so they have a chance to be active against Buffalo. Peters also missed several games near the end of the regular season with a calf injury. We expect him to play through the pain in a very tough matchup with a Bills offense that can put up points with the best of them. Most DFS gamers will be avoiding Baltimore's stout defense this weekend, but they could surprise folks on Saturday night, especially if there is snow on the field.

From RotoBaller

New Orleans Saints Jan 15 9:00pm ET

New Orleans Saints cornerback Patrick Robinson (hamstring) has been ruled out against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for Sunday's Divisional Round matchup, the third between the two clubs this season. Robinson missed practice all week. New Orleans still has a solid defense overall on the edges of the secondary with Janoris Jenkins and Marshon Lattimore locking things down, but Robinson's absence will be felt at nickelback. Chauncey Gardner-Johnson will be tasked with slowing down Tampa wideout Chris Godwin this weekend. The Saints Defense will still be a strong fantasy unit on Sunday, but only if they can get some pressure on future Hall of Famer Tom Brady. In two games against the Saints in the regular season, Godwin had nine catches (13 targets) for 120 yards.

From RotoBaller

Josh Gordon Jan 15 8:50pm ET

The NFL rescinded Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Josh Gordon's conditional reinstatement on Friday and left him banned from the league indefinitely. Gordon was added to the team's active roster three weeks ago and was set to return to the field when he had a setback in his battle with substance abuse that broke the terms of his conditional reinstatement. He missed the entire 2020 campaign after being suspended in December of 2019. This year was the third time he's missed an entire season since entering the league in 2012. The 29-year-old has been suspended by the NFL six times and has 247 career catches while making the All-Pro team in 2013 with Cleveland. What a shame. Gordon has so much talent and is still on the right side of 30 years old, but he may never get another chance in the NFL due to his latest setback.

From RotoBaller

Cooper Kupp Jan 15 8:50pm ET

Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Cooper Kupp (knee) is listed as questionable for the Divisional Round against the Green Bay Packers on Saturday. Kupp missed practice all week, so fantasy managers should certainly be way of quarterback Jared Goff's top target if he's active this weekend. Kupp's injury wasn't deemed serious last weekend when he left late in the wild-card win over the Seahawks, but it could very well limit him if he suits up against Green Bay. Wide receivers Robert Woods, Josh Reynolds and rookie Van Jefferson could see more targets if Kupp has his snaps limited, but all of LA's pass-catchers should be knocked down a peg with Goff fighting through a surgically repaired right thumb.

From RotoBaller

Matt Ryan Jan 15 8:40pm ET

The Atlanta Falcons hired Tennessee Titans offensive coordinator Arthur Smith as their new head coach on Friday, according to sources. Smith was the team's top choice all along, so they get their man. The 38-year-old was one of seven coaching candidates for Atlanta after the team fired Dan Quinn on Oct. 11. Smith is expected to pair with New Orleans Saints assistant general manager/vice president of player personnel, who is expect to be Atlanta's next GM. Smith spent the last 10 seasons with the Titans but stood out the last two years as the team's offensive coordinator, helping the Titans reach the playoffs the last two seasons. Tennessee was the only team in the NFL that ranked in the top five in rushing yards per game (153.5) and passer rating (107) since 2019. He'll try to help an Atlanta team that went 4-12 in 2020 and that hasn't made the playoffs the last three years. Smith should be a good fit if quarterback Matt Ryan and veteran receiver Julio Jones stick around.

From RotoBaller

Tampa Bay Buccaneers Jan 15 7:50pm ET

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers Defense is a solid option ahead of a huge playoff matchup with the New Orleans Saints on Sunday. At one point, Tampa Bay looked like the best defense in the league, but they've since fallen on hard times. Despite this, the Buccaneers still possess talent at all three levels of the defense. Tampa Bay can stop the run and rush the passer, a combination that could lead to turnovers committed by Saints quarterback Drew Brees. The Bucs will need to find their defensive mojo if they want to advance- it's worth betting on for DFS purposes.

From RotoBaller

Chris Godwin Jan 15 7:43pm ET

Tampa Bay Buccaneers WR Chris Godwin (hip, quad) did not participate in practice Friday, Jan. 15, but no longer appears on the injury report for the NFC Divisional Round game versus the New Orleans Saints.

Fantasy Spin: Godwin has a favorable matchup in Chauncey Gardner-Johnson, but the former did not do anything of significance in the first two meetings of the season against the Saints. To his credit, however, he has scored in four straight games and is in the midst of his best three-game stretch of the season.

From TheHuddle

Tedric Thompson Jan 15 7:43pm ET

Cleveland Browns DB Tedric Thompson was waived Friday, Jan. 15.

From TheHuddle

Rob Gronkowski Jan 15 7:30pm ET

Tampa Bay Buccaneers tight end Rob Gronkowski had a catch-less game last week against Washington but could bounce back in Sunday's matchup with the Saints. Gronkowski wasn't a big part of the gameplan last week- at least as a receiver- though that could change against the Saints. The veteran tight end has risen to the occasion in big games this year- 6-106-0 against the Chiefs and 5-78-1 against the Packers- and this would be the biggest stage yet this season. The Tom Brady-Gronkowski connection failed fantasy managers last week, but it's worth going back to be more time.

From RotoBaller

Jared Cook Jan 15 7:23pm ET

New Orleans Saints TE Jared Cook (back) was upgraded to a full practice Friday, Jan. 15, and no longer appears on the injury report for the NFC Divisional Round game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Fantasy Spin: Cook has established a solid floor over the last three games with Drew Brees getting more comfortable following his return from injury, finishing with either three or four catches and at least 40 yards each time. The 33-year-old posted 5-80-0 (Week 1) and 2-30-0 (Week 9) against the Buccaneers earlier this season, inspiring some confidence as a mid-priced DFS play at tight end this weekend.

From TheHuddle

Mike Evans Jan 15 7:23pm ET

Tampa Bay Buccaneers WR Mike Evans (knee) was limited in practice all week but removed from the injury report for the NFC Divisional Round game versus the New Orleans Saints.

Fantasy Spin: Evans enters this contest after erupting for 119 yards against the Washington Football Team last weekend, but his history with Marshon Lattimore seems to bring out the best in the Saints' top corner. No Tampa Bay receiver should be fully faded from this week's DFS slate given how well the offense is playing of late, but Evans should be considered the most likely to disappoint.

From TheHuddle

Antonio Brown Jan 15 7:20pm ET

Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Antonio Brown possesses upside for fantasy purposes in a playoff matchup with the Saints. Brown had only just signed with the team when he took part in his team's blowout loss to the Saints. Since then, he has rounded into form, with five touchdowns in his last four contests, including two games with at least 90 yards receiving. Brown is looking more and more like the dynamic playmaker who made a name for himself in Pittsburgh- and he could be a real x-factor in this game. He's probably a bit riskier than his two fellow wideouts, though he has the most upside against New Orleans' tough defense.

From RotoBaller

Taysom Hill Jan 15 7:13pm ET

New Orleans Saints QB Taysom Hill (knee) was upgraded to a limited practice Friday, Jan. 15, and is listed as questionable for the NFC Divisional Round game versus the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Fantasy Spin: Hill hasn't missed a game over the last three seasons, so the odds are that he'll be able to play this weekend. The versatile 30-year-old typically plays about 20 offensive snaps per game when Drew Brees is healthy and has scored 13 total touchdowns this season as a passer, rusher or receiver. Hill doesn't possess a lot of fantasy value in playoff leagues, but he could be considered a low-end QB1 in 2021 should Brees opt to retire at the end of this season.

From TheHuddle

Chris Godwin Jan 15 7:00pm ET

Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Chris Godwin (hip, quad) has no injury designation and will be out there for the divisional round battle against the Saints. Godwin is rolling right now, as he has averaged 9.3 targets per game over his last three contests, having produced at least 79 yards and a touchdown in each of them. Fellow wideout Mike Evans will have to deal with Saints' corner Marshon Lattimore, who could potentially take him out of the game. Godwin would likely see more targets if that happens, though he makes for a good DFS play- despite the Saints' fifth-ranked pass defense.

From RotoBaller

Latavius Murray Jan 15 6:53pm ET

New Orleans Saints RB Latavius Murray (quad) was upgraded to a limited practice Friday, Jan. 15, and is listed as questionable for the NFC Divisional Round game versus the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Fantasy Spin: It's encouraging for his prospects to play that he was able to get in a limited session Friday after missing the first two practices of the week, but he was unlikely to play much of a role in this game anyway with the Buccaneers being so stout against the run. His potential absence would likely lock Alvin Kamara in for 20 touches and could make Ty Montgomery worthy of a punt play in DFS.

From TheHuddle

Josh Gordon Jan 15 6:43pm ET

Seattle Seahawks WR Josh Gordon had his conditional reinstatement rescinded yet again and was given an indefinite suspension by the league Friday, Jan. 15.

From TheHuddle

Mike Evans Jan 15 6:30pm ET

Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Mike Evans takes on the Saints in the divisional round of the playoffs. Evans comes into the contest having exceeded 100 receiving yards in three of his last four games, with two touchdowns scored. However, he'll be in for a tough test against New Orleans' cornerback Marshon Lattimore, who has yet to allow a catch to Evans in coverage this year. The big-bodied wideout is talented enough to beat any corner, but this seems to be a tough matchup for him in his career. If you turn to Evans in DFS this week, you're probably just hoping he finds the end zone a couple of times.

From RotoBaller

Jarvis Landry Jan 15 6:13pm ET

Cleveland Browns WR Jarvis Landry (hip) practiced in full all week and was left off the injury report for the AFC Divisional Round game against the Kansas City Chiefs.

Fantasy Spin: Landry should be expected to get a full complement of snaps in what should be a high-scoring game. As a player who should be considered a lock for seven or eight targets, he's a solid mid-priced receiver option in DFS with significant upside.

From TheHuddle