The New York Jets needed a victory at Buffalo on Sunday to clinch a playoff spot.
New York Jets 17, Buffalo Bills 22
And given that these are the Jets, such simple odds did not work in their favor. And, of course, it was former coach Rex Ryan who eliminated them, just a year after being fired by the Jets. Instead of seizing the AFC’s final wild card, New York will pack up their season while Pittsburgh will head to the postseason.
In some ways, it was hard to know if Ryan and the Bills beat the Jets or if the Jets beat themselves. Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick was intercepted three times and New York was unable to contain Buffalo quarterback Tyrod Taylor who scrambled for 51 yards and a touchdown to go with 182 passing. The Jets finish 10-6, which means nothing after Sunday’s loss. Buffalo finished 8-8 and got some momentum going into next season after winning their last two games.
Pittsburgh Steelers 28, Cleveland Browns 12
Needing a victory at Cleveland to keep their playoff hopes alive, the Steelers came through by beating the hapless Browns. Still, it was a struggle for Pittsburgh, who overcame three turnovers and the loss of running back DeAngelo Williams and stopped the Browns two times in the shadow of the goal line. Ben Roethlisberger threw for 349 yards and three touchdowns but he was also intercepted twice.
New England Patriots 10, Miami Dolphins 20
Injuries are taking their toll on the Patriots, whose decimated offensive line has not been able to protect Tom Brady. Needing a win against the beleaguered Dolphins to get the top seed in the AFC, New England scored just one touchdown and had no answer late in the game when Miami broke a scoreless tie and then held on to the victory. Brady, who misses injured receiver Julian Edelman and a fully healthy Danny Amendola, completed just 12 passes for 134 yards and was seen hobbling into his postgame press conference.
New England, 12-4, still has a first-round bye and could be closer to full strength in two weeks. The Patriots have now lost four of their last six and two in a row and look little like the team that dominated in the season’s early weeks.
Baltimore Ravens 16, Cincinnati Bengals 24
By beating their hated rivals, Cincinnati extended their AFC North championship record to 12-4 despite a late-season slump due in part to a thumb injury to quarterback Andy Dalton on 13 December. His replacement, AJ McCarron, threw for 160 yards and two touchdowns, buying the Bengals an extra week for Dalton to recover.
Jacksonville Jaguars 6, Houston Texans 30
The Texans endured a season of tumult, beating Jacksonville in the final week to win the AFC South. Although Houston wins the division with a 9-7 record in a dismal division, the fact they were in the playoff race was a feat enough. The Texans went through four quarterbacks, endured the loss of running back Arian Foster and looked at moments as if they had given up on the season.
Against the Jaguars, the most effective of those four quarterbacks, Brian Hoyer, threw for 249 yards and one touchdown. Houston sacked Jacksonville quarterback Blake Bortles eight times in a blowout victory that also sent the Jaguars to a disappointing 5-11 following the promise of a 4-6 start that had them at least in the discussion for a playoff spot.
Washington 34, Dallas Cowboys 23
Kirk Cousins started the season as the uncertain replacement for Robert Griffin III, he ended it with the greatest statistical season a Washington quarterback has ever had. Playing a little more than a quarter against bitter rival Dallas, Cousins completed 12 of 15 passes for 176 yards and three touchdowns. The 176 yards gave him 4,166 for the season pushing him past Jay Schroeder in 1986 for the most passing yards by a Washington player in a season. He also became the first quarterback in team history to throw a touchdown pass in each of the season’s 16 games.
Philadelphia Eagles 35, New York Giants 30
The Eagles ended the Chip Kelly era just days after their coach was fired by winning in a way he might have appreciated. Philadelphia rolled up 435 yards including 315 passing in pushing to a 7-9 final record in a season that was disappointing given a flurry of offseason moves. New York’s Rashad Jennings ran for 170 yards in what might well be coach Tom Coughlin’s last game as their coach.
New Orleans Saints, 20 Atlanta Falcons 17
If this was indeed Sean Payton’s last game as coach of the Saints he at least went out with a victory. Kicker Kai Forbath hit a 30-yard field goal as time expired giving Payton some satisfaction in a ruined season by pushing the Saints to a 7-9 record that seemed unlikely after they started the year losing three of four games. New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees threw for 323 yards and a touchdown while the Falcons Matt Ryan threw for 334 yards as they fell to 8-8.
Tennessee Titans 24, Indianapolis Colts 30
In a matchup of quarterbacks who were not supposed to have an impact on their team’s seasons, the Colts Josh Freeman out-dueled Zach Mettenberger. Freeman threw for 149 yards and one touchdown and Indianapolis kicker Adam Viniateri hit three field goals for the Colts who stumbled to 8-8. Still, it was a disappointment for Indianapolis who had Super Bowl aspirations, but quarterback Andrew Luck was rarely healthy and the team’s inconsistency will reportedly cost coach Chuck Pagano his job.
With the loss, Tennessee, clinched the No 1 overall pick in this spring’s draft.
Detroit Lions 24, Chicago Bears 20
The Lions salvaged another lost season by winning five of their last seven games including this one at division rival Chicago. Detroit receiver Calvin Johnson had his 46th 100-yard receiving game by catching 10 passes for 137 yards and a touchdown. Bears quarterback Jay Cutler did not play well in the defeat, being intercepted three times and leaving questions as to whether he is the franchise’s quarterback for the future.
This article was written by Les Carpenter, for theguardian.com on Sunday 3rd January 2016 22.47 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010