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Patriots Look to Postseason; Bills, Fins, Jets Headed Home

As the NFL reaches its final week of regular season action, New England will look to improve on its current No. 3 seeding in the AFC Playoffs while the rest of the AFC East will be [not so] quietly be welcoming season’s end.

Barring any ties this weekend, the AFC East will finish with a combined 31-33 (.484) record, tied with the AFC South and NFC East, and ahead of only the dismal AFC West, which will finish 26-38 (.406).

Whilst three sides in the NFC East remain in contention for a playoff spot entering the final week of play, the AFC East has been a one-horse race for weeks, with everybody but New England finding new ways to lose. It’s true that Miami, Buffalo and the New York Jets all hung around the playoff picture until recent weeks, but there’s no way to put a spin on what has been a poor season for the division.

Now, it’s time to wave goodbye to perhaps the most underachieving division in football.

Miami Dolphins (7-8) at New England Patriots (11-4)

Sunday, 4:25 PM ET

Tom Brady and the New England Patriots entertain Ryan Tannehill and the Miami Dolphins in the final week of regular season play.

New England (11-4, 5-2 home) will look to propel itself into the No. 1 or No. 2 playoff berth this weekend, thus ensuring a bye in the first round of the playoffs and a home game in the divisional round.

To do so, the Patriots first need to beat the Dolphins and then hope that Houston loses to Indianapolis – which ensures a No. 2 seed – and/or Denver loses to Kansas City – which ensures a No. 1 seed.

While it might appear that Miami (7-8, 2-5 road) has nothing to play for, Joe Philbin’s side will be looking to avoid a fourth consecutive and sixth losing season in seven years.

The Dolphins have had moments this season where they have looked like a solid team, not least on the defensive side of the ball where they rank sixth in the league in points allowed (19.3 per game). Offensively, rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill has given the Fins positive outings, something that cannot be said of so many quarterbacks since Dan Marino’s retirement following the 1999 season.

These two sides met on Dec. 2, a game that the Patriots won 23-16, a sixth win on what would be a seven-game winning streak. The Dolphins however gave New England a run for its money.

Ahead of the meeting in South Florida, New England had scored no fewer than 37 points per game in four straight. The Fins’ defense held Tom Brady and Co. to 23 points, the team’s second lowest total on the entire season. Stopping the No. 1 scoring offense in the league (35.3 PPG) this weekend would be a worthy finish to the season for Miami.

Understandably, New England is favorite heading into this one, but bettors have been wary of an 11-point spread, which has subsequently fallen to 10. Miami’s record against the spread this season (7-6-2 ATS) is only marginally worse than New England’s (8-6-1 ATS).

The over/under opened at 49.5 but has fallen to 46, most likely a result of New England’s less than decisive win over lowly Jacksonville last weekend. The total has gone over in 11 New England games this season, and under in nine Miami games.

New York Jets (6-9) at Buffalo Bills (5-10)

Sunday, 1 PM ET

Ryan Fitzpatrick and the Buffalo Bills will hope to cap a disappointing season with a win over the New York Jets, a team that has imploded in a big way.

Whilst the Patriots have been the Patriots and the Dolphins have had their moments this season, there’s nothing good to say about the underachieving Jets and Bills.

Buffalo (5-10, 3-4 home) spent a lot of money this summer to sure up its defense, which has subsequently given up 28.4 points and 146.7 rushing yards per game. Only Tennessee gave up more points (30.1 PPG) and no team gave up more rushing yards.

The Bills have subsequently compiled an eighth straight losing season.

The New York Jets (6-9, 3-4 road) have been less football team more circus act this year. The team’s move to include Tim Tebow this season – which was doomed from the start – has piled ridicule on the team, and pressure on starting quarterback, Mark Sanchez.

Sanchez lost his starting role towards the end of the season, but not to Tebow. Instead rookie Greg McElroy took over triggerman duties. McElroy will be absent this week (concussion) meaning Sanchez is back under center, at least for the start of the game.

The Jets will miss the postseason for the second straight year. Regardless of Sunday’s matchup, Gang Green will post its first losing season since 2007, its fourth losing season in a decade.

New York defeated Buffalo 48-28 back in Week 1, suggesting that the Jets were in for a good season. Now we know different, Rex Ryan’s side will try to complete a season sweep against the Bills.

Buffalo has lost six straight and eight of nine to the Jets, but the Bills will be hoping that Upstate New York’s cold temperatures (26 degrees) help derail the Jets on Sunday afternoon, as they did the Dolphins earlier this season.

Buffalo enters the game as favorites, with the spread bumping up from three at opening to 3.5 ahead of kickoff. In fairness, the Jets’ woes are more responsible for these figures than the Bills’ capabilities. Buffalo has posted a 6-9-0 ATS record, while the Jets have been marginally better at 6-8-1 ATS. The over/under has dropped from 41 to 39.

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