Wed. Jul 17th, 2024
James Cook had a career day in Buffalo’s huge win over Dallas

Dates: 7 September 2023 – 7 January 2024

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The San Francisco 49ers clinched their division and a few more play-off places were decided in the NFL, but the Buffalo Bills made perhaps the biggest statement with their demolition job on the Dallas Cowboys.

Results elsewhere meant Dallas clinched a play-off spot before their game in Buffalo, but they were outmatched and outmuscled by the Bills, who will be a real threat if they can fight their way into the post-season.

The Kansas City Chiefs bounced back after two straight defeats but still had problems with dropped passes, while the Miami Dolphins shut out the New York Jets 30-0 as the Jets’ long-running play-off drought went into a 13th year.

The Chiefs still trail the Dolphins and Baltimore Ravens, who beat the Jacksonville Jaguars to maintain top spot in the AFC standings ahead of their huge Christmas Eve showdown with Miami which could settle who gets a first-round play-off bye.

Dangerous Bills dominate Cowboys

They should have beaten the Eagles in Philadelphia, they did beat the Chiefs in Kansas City and on Sunday the Bills crushed the Cowboys 31-10, showing a physical dominance in the trenches we have not seen from them before.

Defensively, Buffalo held the best scoring attack in the league in check with a season-low of 195 yards, coupled with a power run game as James Cook had a monster day with 179 yards and two touchdowns.

Bills quarterback Josh Allen had only 94 yards from 15 pass attempts but still had his moments as the Bills moved to 8-6, still just outside the play-offs on tie-breakers but firmly looking the team everyone will want to avoid in the post season – if they can get there.

Raheem Mostert (left) has scored 20 touchdowns for the Miami Dolphins

Dolphins end Jets’ season

Signing Aaron Rodgers was supposed to herald a new era for the Jets, but the suffering goes on as their heavy loss in Miami means it is now 13 years since they made the play-offs – not only the longest streak in the NFL but in all four major sports in the USA.

Rodgers may well have made a miraculous recovery from Achilles surgery, but there is no way he will be risked this season as that summer of hope has been replaced by a familiar feeling of failure around New York.

For 10-4 Miami, if they win their last three games they will get the AFC top seed, a bye and home advantage throughout the play-offs – but it is as tough as it gets with final fixtures against the Cowboys, Ravens and Bills.

San Francisco seal NFC West title

Running back Raheem Mostert scored twice for Miami to reach 20 touchdowns for the season, which was then matched by Christian McCaffrey thanks to hat-trick in San Francisco’s 45-29 victory at the Arizona Cardinals.

San Francisco quarterback Brock Purdy took a big hit in the game but hardly missed a throw, with his four touchdowns and 242 yards passing helping his team to a sixth straight win that gave them a second successive NFC West title.

They have won all six by at least 12 points to lead the NFC, with the unflappable Purdy a major MVP candidate and team-mate McCaffrey perhaps his biggest challenger as they drive the 49ers juggernaut on to 11-3 and looking almost impossible to stop.

Bill Belichick could be leaving the Patriots at the end of the season

Chiefs win but drops still an issue

Super Bowl champions the Chiefs responded to successive defeats with a 27-17 victory at the New England Patriots, but quarterback Patrick Mahomes still has problems finding receivers who can catch the ball.

At 9-5 and with Denver losing to Detroit on Saturday, the Chiefs have some breathing room and still an outside chance of getting that coveted top seed as they chase a fourth Super Bowl appearance in five years.

The Patriots were the NFL’s previous dynasty but that has certainly come to an end as Bill Belichick’s tenure is seemingly ending on a severe low point – with his 3-11 side so unappealing that this fixture was the first to be moved out of the coveted Monday Night Football prime time slot.

Another unappealing team, according to their own fans, are the Carolina Panthers, who beat the Atlanta Falcons 9-7 to claim only their second win of the season, but, in heavy rain, only a smattering of fans were there to see it.

Beaten-up Browns keep finding a way

The Cleveland Browns are on their fourth starting quarterback of the season and have a catalogue of injuries, yet veteran Joe Flacco led them to a late 20-17 comeback win over the Chicago Bears that moved them to 9-5 and fifth in the AFC play-off standings.

Flacco, a former Super Bowl winner with Baltimore, had to overcome three interceptions to help Cleveland to a fifth game they have won inside the final two minutes, and a sixth win by four points or less.

They are doing it the hard way, but the Browns are getting it done somehow.

The Houston Texans are not far behind on 8-6 as they managed to overcome the loss of rookie sensation CJ Stroud to beat the Tennessee Titans 19-16 and eliminate Tennessee from the play-offs.

Quarterback Baker Mayfield produced a perfect statistical passer rating to fire the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to a 34-20 win at the Green Bay Packers and top spot in the NFC South ahead of the New Orleans Saints, who beat the New York Giants 24-6.

The Los Angeles Rams, Super Bowl champions two seasons ago, occupy the seventh a final spot in the NFC play-offs after they ran out 28-20 winners over the Washington Commanders.

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