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NFL playoff update: Bills clinch AFC East, Ravens punch ticket

Dec 24, 2022; Chicago, Illinois, USA;  Buffalo Bills wide receiver Khalil Shakir (10) celebrates with wide receiver Gabe Davis (13) after scoring a successful two-point try in the third quarter against the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field. Buffalo defeated Chicago 35-13. Mandatory Credit: Jamie Sabau-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Jamie Sabau-USA TODAY Sports

Locked in a dogfight with Kansas City for the top overall seed in the AFC, the Buffalo Bills clinched their third straight AFC East title on Saturday while keeping pace with Chiefs for that coveted first-round bye and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.

The Bills overcame below-freezing temperatures and a 10-6 halftime deficit to overwhelm host Chicago and beat the Bears 35-13 during Saturday’s first set of games. With Kansas City beating visiting Seattle 24-10, the Bills and Chiefs enter the season’s penultimate weekend with 12-3 records.

The Bills beat the Chiefs 24-20 in Week 6, meaning Buffalo gets the No. 1 seed should the teams end the season tied atop the conference.

The race for the top seed isn’t a two-team affair, however, as a pair of AFC North teams are lurking in the shadows. Two days after Cincinnati clinched a playoff spot with the New York Jets’ loss to Jacksonville on Thursday night, the Bengals helped divisional-rival Baltimore get into the postseason.

The Ravens needed a win (accomplished with a 17-9 victory over visiting Atlanta) and a Bengals victory in New England to get into the playoffs. After seeing much of its 22-0 halftime lead evaporate, Cincinnati forced a late turnover then held on for a 22-18 win.

The Ravens (10-5) also remained a game behind the Bengals (11-4) in the race for the division crown. Baltimore visits Cincinnati in Week 18.

It was a different story in the NFC, as the two teams with the most to gain with wins instead fell agonizingly short.

In what was perhaps the day’s headlining game, Philadelphia took the NFL’s best record into Dallas, but did so without injured quarterback and MVP candidate Jalen Hurts, starting Gardner Minshew in his place.

For Philadelphia, a win would have clinched not only the NFC East, but also the conference’s No. 1 overall seed. After the Eagles jumped out to a quick 10-0 lead, the Cowboys fought back to go up early in the second quarter and the game remained tight the rest of the way.

But a pair of Brett Maher field goals in the game’s final 2:19 gave the Cowboys the game’s final six points and ended up being the difference in a 40-34 Dallas win.

Another NFC East team that couldn’t take advantage of good fortune was the New York Giants.

Coming into Saturday’s game just 2-4-1 in their last seven games after a 6-1 start to the season, the Giants needed a win and then two of three teams — Washington, Detroit and Seattle — to lose. The good fortune came in the way of losses by all three teams, but New York failed to do its part, losing on a walk-off, 61-yard field goal in Minneapolis.

–Field Level Media