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Misfiring New England Patriots and Tom Brady secure AFC East title for 10th time in a row

Patriots not at their best as they beat Buffalo Bills while big wins on penultimate weekend of NFL regular season for both Dallas Cowboys and New England Saints

New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady throws a pass during his side's win over Buffalo Bills on Sunday.  Winslow Townson-USA Today Sports
New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady throws a pass during his side's win over Buffalo Bills on Sunday.  Winslow Townson-USA Today Sports

For a decade now, New England Patriots have owned the AFC East.

The Patriots clinched their 10th straight division title on Sunday when they beat Buffalo Bills 24-12.

They got an added bonus when Houston Texans fell at Philadelphia Eagles 32-30 to drop out of the second seed in the conference, which New England grabbed.

It was a double treat for the Patriots, who probably need to be home in the post-season considering they are 7-0 on home turf - the league's only undefeated team in its own building - and 3-5 on the road.

"We didn't have our best day in the passing game. But it felt good to win. At this time of year, whatever it takes to win, that's what you've got to do," quarterback Tom Brady, who suffered two interceptions, said.

The defending Super Bowl champions Philadelphia remained alive in the NFC wild-card chase with that win on Jake Elliott's 35-yard field goal as time expired.

On a busy Sunday of action, Dallas Cowboys took the NFC East crown when it defeated Tampa Bay Buccaneers 27-20.


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"We've got a lot more work to do," Dak Prescott, the Dallas quarterback, said. "This is something that we set out, wanted to do way back in the off-season, and this is giving us a chance to go and get the greater goal."

Dallas are guaranteed to host a wild-card game in the play-offs. If Minnesota Vikings (8-6-1) wins next week at home against North winner Chicago, it will get a wild card slot as well.

New Orleans Saints secured home-field advantage throughout the NFC play-offs by beating Pittsburgh Steelers 31-28, dropping their opponents into second place behind Baltimore in the AFC North.

New Orleans (13-2) has the league's best mark and owns the NFC South crown.

"Knowing that we've done it, knowing that the road comes through New Orleans, that gives us a lot of confidence," Drew Brees, the New Orleans quarterback, said. "Obviously we love playing in the dome. We have goals throughout the season and this is one of them."

Baltimore (9-6), fresh off its victory at the Chargers on Saturday night, has a half-game lead on Pittsburgh (8-6-1), which has lost four of five. Baltimore will take the AFC North crown with a home win against Cleveland Browns next week. Pittsburgh host Cincinnati Bengals and need help to get into the post-season.

"We're playing pretty good football, but it might not matter," Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said. "Obviously we don't control our destiny any more. We have to take care of business next week.

"You can be as skillful as you want on both sides of the ball and special teams, but there is still a small element of luck involved in football. A play here, a play there. If that's what it is, I don't know, but it's the game of football."

In the AFC South, Houston (10-5) is leading Indianapolis Colts and Tennessee Titans, who are both on 9-6.

Indianapolis and Tennessee face off in Nashville next Sunday night, and the winner there will be in.

Updated: December 24, 2018 08:06 AM



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