Sat Dec 21 8:02pm ET
By JIMMY GOLEN
AP Sports Writer
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.
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.
Bills: Host the New York Jets on Sunday.
Patriots: Host Miami on Sunday.
Sunday Morning Update: Week 7
Cleveland Browns wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. has been taken to the locker room after getting injured during an interception return for the opposing Bengals. It appeared to be a knee issue for Beckham, who was limping as he left the field. Jarvis Landry will see more targets if Beckham is unable to return, as would tight end Harrison Bryant.
Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Russell Gage (knee) is questionable to return to Sunday's game against the Detroit Lions. A solid No. 3 receiver for Atlanta, Olamide Zaccheaus would see an increased workload should Gage be unable to return to Sunday's contest.
Jacksonville Jaguars running back Ryquell Armstead hasn't appeared in a game this season as he's been on the NFL's COVID-19 list since training camp. It now appears that Armstead is done for the rest of 2020, as complications from the disease have led him to be hospitalized twice. Armstead's case is a reminder that COVID-19 is a serious illness with long-term health effects for many who get it.
Houston Texans tight end Jordan Akins (ankle/concussion) is out for a third consecutive game on Sunday when the Texans face the Packers. With Akins sidelined, Darren Fells will once again serve as the primary tight end. He's caught eight passes for 142 yards and two scores in the last two weeks without Akins and should be considered a high-end TE2 play this week.
One name to keep an eye on at the trade deadline: Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver John Ross III, who was a healthy scratch again in Week 7. Ross was targeted five times in Week 1. Since then, he's appeared in just two games, with no receptions. The former first round pick is clearly not in the long-term plans for the Bengals and has reportedly been pushing for a trade.
Carolina Panthers WR Curtis Samuel (knee) is active for Week 7's game against the New Orleans Saints.
Fantasy Spin: Samuel had been listed as questionable on the injury report but was able to participate in all three of the team's practice sessions during the week on a limited basis. However, he is not a recommended fantasy option this afternoon because of his lack of involvement in the Carolina offense.
The New York Jets will get two players back on Sunday. Quarterback Sam Darnold (shoulder) returns after a two-game absence, while wide receiver Denzel Mims (hamstring) is expected to make his NFL debut. Neither player is expected to be much of a fantasy asset on Sunday, though Mims could see plenty of targets with Jamison Crowder (groin) out, making the rookie an interesting emergency play in deeper leagues. Darnold will start over Joe Flacco, who is droppable if you still were holding onto the veteran in re-draft.
With tight end Austin Hooper (appendicitis) out, the Cleveland Browns are expected to start rookie Harrison Bryant at the position over David Njoku. Bryant becomes an interesting TE2 play for fantasy managers who need a streamer at the position, and while his ceiling is fairly low, he does offer some decent upside in full PPR leagues. The team clearly believes in him more than they do Njoku.
New York Jets WR Jamison Crowder (groin) has been declared inactive for the Week 7 game.
Fantasy Spin: Breshad Perriman, Denzel Mims and Braxton Berrios likely will serve as the top three receivers for the Jets this week, but fantasy players should avoid all three in their leagues.
New York Jets QB Sam Darnold (shoulder) is officially active for the Week 7 game.
Fantasy Spin: Darnold is back in the lineup after missing a few games but will be without his top receiver. He should be avoided in all standard leagues, and fantasy players in two-quarterback leagues may be able to find a better option.
Washington Football Team quarterback Dwayne Haskins is inactive again in Week 7 against the Dallas Cowboys, which means Kyle Allen and Alex Smith will serve as the team's quarterbacks once again. Haskins's time in Washington appears to be done at this point, as he can't even crack the active roster on game days at this point. With the trade deadline coming up, don't be shocked to see the team move Haskins for whatever they can get.
The Washington Football Team have declared DE James Smith-Williams, LB Casey Toohill, QB Dwayne Haskins, LB Thomas Davis, OT Geron Christian, WR Isaiah Wright and WR Robert Foster inactive for Week 7.
The Houston Texans have declared WR Keke Coutee, OT Charlie Heck, CB John Reid, TE Jordan Akins and LB Peter Kalambayi inactive for Week 7.
The New Orleans Saints have declared DE Malcolm Roach, SS D.J. Swearinger, OT Derrick Kelly, WR Michael Thomas, WR Emmanuel Sanders, OG Nick Easton and CB Ken Crawley inactive for Week 7.
Green Bay Packers running back Aaron Jones (calf) is inactive for Sunday's game against the Houston Texans. Jones had been trending down all week, and Jamaal Williams will slide in as the starting running back on Sunday. Williams is a low-end RB1 option due to Houston's defensive struggles, as they're allowing the most rushing yards per game to opposing teams. We could also see some A.J. Dillon, though Williams is the player to go to for season-long and DFS managers looking for a Jones replacement.
Carolina Panthers wide receiver Curtis Samuel (knee) is officially active for Sunday's game against the New Orleans Saints. Samuel's been a versatile player for the Panthers, seeing work as a receiver and a running back, though from a fantasy perspective, his production hasn't been consistent enough to make him more than a deep-league flex option at this point. His return could cut into Mike Davis's carries a little, as well as Robby Anderson's targets.
Atlanta Falcons WR Julio Jones is not a candidate to be moved before the trade deadline, according to sources.
Fantasy Spin: Jones has dealt with injuries this season but has posted at least 137 yards in two of his four games in 2020. He is one of the better receivers in the NFL when healthy and should be a weekly starting option.
New York Jets QB Sam Darnold will not be moved before the trade deadline, according to a source.
Fantasy Spin: Darnold is returning to the lineup after being sidelined but does not have a lot of weapons to work with in the passing game. He should be considered a low-end No. 2 quarterback in fantasy leagues.
The Detroit Lions have declared QB David Blough, WR Quintez Cephus, CB Desmond Trufant, OG Logan Stenberg, RB Bo Scarbrough and SS Miles Killebrew inactive for Week 7.