Bills, Titans, Falcons make way into playoffs with wins

  • Buffalo Bills free safety Jordan Poyer (21) shows the ball after he intercepted a pass late in the second half of an NFL football game against the Miami Dolphins, Sunday, Dec. 31, 2017, in Miami Gardens, Fla. The Bills defeated the Dolphins 22-16. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky) Lynne Sladky

  • Tennessee Titans free safety Kevin Byard celebrates after intercepting a pass against the Jacksonville Jaguars to stop their final drive in the last seconds of the fourth quarter in an NFL football game Sunday, Dec. 31, 2017, in Nashville, Tenn. The Titans won 15-10. (AP Photo/James Kenney) James Kenney

  • Atlanta Falcons running back Devonta Freeman leave the field after the second half of an NFL football game against the Carolina Panthers, Sunday, Dec. 31, 2017, in Atlanta. The Atlanta Falcons won 22-10. (AP Photo/John Bazemore) John Bazemore

  • Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Tyler Boyd (83) carries the ball toward the end zone for a touchdown as Baltimore Ravens cornerback Brandon Carr (24), cornerback Maurice Canady (26) and free safety Eric Weddle (32) chase him during the second half of an NFL football game in Baltimore, Sunday, Dec 31, 2017. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky) Patrick Semansky

Associated Press
Sunday, December 31, 2017

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 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.

“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.”

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.

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.

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.