Bills, Titans, Falcons make way into playoffs with wins
By BARRY WILNER
Jan. 01, 2018
The Buffalo Bills are in the NFL playoffs.
No, we're not kidding.
They needed some last-minute help from Cincinnati, which stunned Baltimore 31-27 after Buffalo had won at Miami 22-16 Sunday. Those results lifted the Bills into the final AFC wild-card spot and a visit to Jacksonville next Sunday.
The last time they reached the postseason, the Bills lost in the Music City Miracle game in Nashville in January 2000. Their playoff drought was the longest current string in North American professional sports.
But the happiness comes with a caveat: star running back LeSean McCoy was injured and carted off in the second half. He was seen in a walking boot after the game.
"The locker room is electric man. We have been working so hard for this," Bills guard Richie Incognito said. "So much has been said about it. And now the monkey is off our back. We're in the postseason and we've got new life."
The Jaguars are coached by Doug Marrone, who resigned as Bills coach exactly three years ago.
Baltimore's late meltdown was stunning. The Ravens needed to stop a fourth-and-12 from their 49, and Andy Dalton found Tyler Boyd with 44 seconds left to pull out the win — and send the Ravens home. Baltimore had trailed most of the game before taking a 27-24 lead with 8:48 remaining.
"Even the game, I think, epitomizes a little bit the way the season went," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "We had to battle our way back the way we did, and then not to be able to finish and win the game is about as tough as it can be."
Tennessee had a win-and-get-in scenario and took advantage by beating the AFC South champion Jags 15-10. That gave the Titans their first playoff berth since 2008. They head to AFC West winner Kansas City on Saturday to open the wild-card round.
"We refused to go home," Brian Orakpo said. "I didn't want to be on a Southwest flight back to Texas tomorrow wondering, 'what if.'
"It's an unbelievable feeling."
The Falcons will get another chance to reach the Super Bowl, though this time as a wild card. The team that blew a 28-3 lead in the second half of the big game in February defeated Carolina 22-10 to earn a trip to the NFC West champ Rams. Los Angeles sat most of its regulars in losing to San Francisco 34-13. Falcons-Rams is Saturday night.
Seattle fell short of reaching the postseason with Atlanta's win, but lost anyway to Arizona 26-24.
"All you want is an opportunity," said Falcons defensive tackle Grady Jarrett, who had a sack and three tackles for losses. "We have one. Now it's up to us to take advantage of it."
The Panthers already were in, and they will meet NFC South foe and division winner New Orleans on Sunday to finish off the opening round. The Saints swept their two meetings with Carolina this season.
New England (13-3), as it almost always seems to do, secured home-field advantage for the AFC playoffs by beating the Jets 26-6. Pittsburgh (13-3) got the No. 2 seed — its controversial loss to the Patriots in Week 15 was the tiebreaker — with its 28-24 victory over Cleveland. They both are off next week.
Minnesota (13-3) already had qualified for the postseason, and it grabbed a wild-card round bye with a 23-10 win over Chicago. The other bye in the NFC went to Philadelphia (13-3) last week as the top seed, and the Eagles played plenty of backups in a 6-0 defeat against Dallas.
Eight of the 12 playoff teams are newcomers from last year: Buffalo, Tennessee, Jacksonville, the Rams, Philadelphia, Carolina, New Orleans and Minnesota. That includes two teams that finished last in their division in 2016 and won it this season: the Eagles and Jags.
The divisional round will open in Philadelphia on Saturday, Jan. 13. New England will host a game that night.
On Sunday, Jan. 14, Pittsburgh hosts the early game, then the round concludes in Minnesota.
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