Patriots down Jets to secure home field advantage in playoffs


Los Angeles (AFP)

The Super Bowl champion New England Patriots locked up home field advantage throughout the playoffs Sunday with a 26-6 victory over the New York Jets on the final day of the NFL regular season.

Superstar quarterback Tom Brady and the Patriots, already assured of the AFC East division title and a first-round bye, secured the conference's top spot for a second straight season and the seventh time overall.

Dion Lewis totaled 133 yards -- 93 rushing and 40 receiving -- and scored two touchdowns while Brady completed 18-of-37 passes for 190 yards and two touchdowns for the Pats.

New England's victory over the lowly Jets, in frigid weather at their Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts, meant the Pittsburgh Steelers settled for the second seed in the American Football Conference, despite a 28-24 victory over the hapless Cleveland Browns.

In another game played in arctic conditions, the Steelers rested quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and running back Le'Veon Bell.

Even so, the Browns claimed a dubious place in NFL history, joining the 2008 Detroit Lions as the only teams to finish an NFL season 0-16.

The Browns pushed to the end to avoid that ignominy. After the Steelers jumped to a 14-0 lead, Cleveland came back to knot the score at 21-21.

But the Steelers regained the lead on JuJu Smith-Schuster's 96-yard kickoff return and the Browns could only manage a field goal after that.

The Minnesota Vikings secured a first-round bye in the National Football Conference playoffs with a 23-10 victory over the Chicago Bears.

The defeat was widely expected to spell the end of coach John Fox's tenure at Chicago, after the Bears finished the season 5-11.

The Philadelphia Eagles, who had already clinched the top seed, with a bye and home field advantage, in the NFC, ended the regular-season with a 6-0 loss to the Dallas Cowboys.

The game, another one played in freezing weather in Philadelphia, was scoreless through three quarters before Dallas quarterback Dak Prescott hit Brice Butler with a 12-yard touchdown pass early in the fourth.

The Eagles won't have been encouraged by the performance of quarterback Nick Foles, who connected on four of 11 passes for 39 yards and one interception before third-string signal caller Nate Sudfeld took over in the second quarter.

The Eagles were shut out for the first time since the regular-season finale in 2010.

The race for the three final playoff berths continued later Sunday.

Four teams had a chance at the two remaining AFC berths. The Baltimore Ravens and Tennessee Titans could seize them with victories in their games, but if they faltered the Los Angeles Chargers and Buffalo Bills had a chance to swoop in for the spoils.

The Atlanta Falcons were trying to secure the final NFC wild card berth with a victory over the Carolina Panthers, but any misstep could open the door for the Seattle Seahawks to advance.