Bills Clinch Playoff Berth, Win 10 Games For First Time Since 1999

The Bills are headed to the postseason.

Buffalo defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers in primetime to clinch an AFC wild card spot in the playoffs as it looks to fight for the coveted Lombardi Trophy in February. The win also marked the 10th of the season for the Bills, something that hasn’t been done since 1999, finally snapping their drought, according to ESPN’s Field Yates.

The Bills have won 10 games for the first time since 1999, snapping the NFL’s longest streak without double digit wins. And they are headed to the playoffs. Building something special in Buffalo…
— Field Yates (@FieldYates) December 16, 2019

Josh Allen and Co. now travel to Foxboro to take on the New England Patriots. Even if New England loses next Saturday, it still can lock up the AFC East with a Week 17 win over the lowly Miami Dolphins. So it’s likely Buffalo either will face the Kansas City Chiefs or Houston Texans in the first round of the playoffs.
Did you ever think the AFC East would be this close heading into the season?

Joe Mixon ‘Can’t Believe’ He Shook Tom Brady’s Hand After Patriots-Bengals

Joe Mixon had a strong game for the Bengals, despite Cincinnati’s 34-13 loss to the New England Patriots on Sunday afternoon.

But it wasn’t his 25 carries for 136 yards that had the running back excited after the game, it’s what happened after the final whistle blew. Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, as he usually does, headed to the middle of the field to shake hands with his opponents. And when he did that at Paul Brown Stadium, he left Mixon feeling a little starstruck.
“Bruh.. I still can’t believe I shook @TomBrady hand today and had a lil conversation with him I ain’t gone lie I wanted to ask for his jersey but was too scared to ask,” the running back tweeted.

Bruh.. I still can’t believe I shook @TomBrady hand today and had a lil conversation with him I ain’t gone lie I wanted to ask for his jersey but was too scared to ask
— Primetime!!! (@Joe_MainMixon) December 16, 2019

It’s OK, Joe, we’d probably be too scared to ask Brady for his jersey, too.

David Pastrnak ‘Would Love’ To Reach 50-Goal Mark For Bruins

In case you haven’t heard, David Pastrnak is on a torrid pace to begin the 2018-19 season.
The Bruins winger has 28 goals and 20 assists through Boston’s first 34 games and shows no signs of slowing down. There’s been plenty of talk as to whether Pastrnak will reach the 50-goal mark, something no Bruin has done since Cam Neely did in the 1993-94 season.
But the 23-year-old’s only goal? Just to get better.
“To be honest, I never really set targets,” Pastrnak said, via NBC Sports Boston. My only target is to get better every year. Obviously, it won’t happen every year. But that’s my goal and the biggest thing is I know what I can do when I’m healthy so just stay healthy and work on my game every single day.
“I would love to work my way to that goal,” he added. “That’s something I want to work on and definitely would like to get there.”
If Pastrnak keeps up his current pace, he’ll reach the 50-goal milestone with ease. He’ll have a chance to tack on to his league-leading goal total Tuesday night when the Bruins welcome the Los Angeles Kings to TD Garden.

Bruce Cassidy Believes Team ‘Getting Back To More Boston Bruins’ Hockey

The Bruins recently hit their worst slump of the season when Boston lost five straight games. But Bruce Cassidy has liked what he’s seen of late.
Boston snapped its skid with a 4-2 win over the Florida Panthers on Saturday night at BB&T Center after some strong play from all four lines. Cassidy previously had called out his second and third lines, saying he needed more from them. Both Jake DeBrusk and David Krejci potted goals in Saturday’s win, much to Cassidy’s delight.
And even though the B’s are 1-2-0 in their last three games, Cassidy praised his team’s play despite the losses.
“It looks like we’re getting back to more Boston Bruins style of hockey the last three games,” the head coach said, per The Athletic’s Fluto Shinzawa. “Only one win to show for it. But if you play that way this week at home, I see good things for us. Especially if all four lines are able to contribute.”
Boston begins a four-game homestand Tuesday when it welcomes the Los Angeles Kings to TD Garden as it looks to get back to its dominant winning ways.

Why Phil Simms Believes Giants QB Eli Manning Won’t Return To NFL In 2020

Have we seen the last of Eli Manning?
Phil Simms seems to think so.

Manning and the New York Giants defeated the Miami Dolphins 36-20 in Week 15 and have just one more home game before they close out the 2019 season. Daniel Jones has played a majority of the season under center, but Manning got the call Sunday at MetLife Stadium.
The quarterback went 20-of-28 for 283 yards, two touchdowns and three interceptions. He left the field to a standing ovation before being greeted by his wife and kids.
It sure seemed like the perfect send-off for the 38-year-old, who will become a free agent at the end of the season. And while we can’t predict the future, Simms appeared fairly confident in saying he doesn’t believe Manning will be back in the NFL next season.
“I do not believe he will be back in the NFL next year,” the former Giants QB said, per CBS. “He has stated clearly that he does not want to be a backup, and is somebody going to go out there and get him as a bridge quarterback? I don’t think they’ll do that.”

[email protected] on Eli Manning’s future in the NFL: I do not believe he will be back in the NFL next year. He has stated clearly that he does not want to be a backup, and is somebody going to go out there and get him as a bridge quarterback? I don't think they'll do that. pic.twitter.com/u3r9SyKlki
— NFLonCBS (@NFLonCBS) December 15, 2019

Simms certainly has a point. Manning turns 39 in January and it will be hard to imagine a team needing an aging signal-caller as its starter. Of course, there’s always a chance Manning takes a backup role. But only time will tell what his next move will be.

Zdeno Chara One Of Three Players To Play In Four Different Decades

Zdeno Chara has been in the NHL for a long time. And when 2020 rolls around, he’ll be playing in his fourth different decade.
The Boston Bruins defenseman debuted in the league with the New York Islanders in the 1997-98 season. Chara began the 2000s in New York before being traded to the Ottawa Senators during the 2001 NHL Draft. The 6-foot-9 blueliner then inked a five-year deal with the B’s priorj to the 2006-07 season and has been a member of the Black and Gold ever since.
When the clock strikes midnight Jan. 1, Chara will be one of three other players who will enter their fourth different decade on the ice, according to NBC Sports.
The two others include San Jose Sharks forward Patrick Marleau, who began his career in 1997, and defenseman Joe Thornton, who entered the NHL the same time as Marleau.
Chara has played in 1,519 games –989 of those with the B’s– and has 205 goals.

Bengals’ Tyler Boyd Claims He Won ‘Majority’ Of Matchups Vs. Stephon Gilmore

CINCINNATI — Tyler Boyd was in a bizarrely boastful mood after the New England Patriots dispatched his Cincinnati Bengals with relative ease on Sunday.
After being limited to three catches on seven targets for 26 yards in a 34-13 Patriots victory, the Bengals’ top receiver told reporters he actually got the better of New England cornerback Stephon Gilmore.
“It was just 1-on-1,” Boyd said, according to the transcripts released by Bengals PR. “I won the majority of the matchups. … But the two plays he made were great plays.”

The stats tell a different story.
Shadowing Boyd throughout the game, Gilmore allowed two catches on six targets for 24 yards with two interceptions and two pass breakups. Boyd’s other reception came while Gilmore was covering a different receiver.
Boyd entered Sunday ranked 12th in the NFL in receptions, averaging 5.6 catches and 64.1 yards per game. He also took some thinly veiled shots at his own team, saying Gilmore’s pick-six was the result of poor game management.
“We were running an out route to the field with man coverage (and he had) outside leverage,” Boyd told reporters. “Think it’s going to be a pick? … He was already in perfect leverage. We should have called a slant.”

2 + 4 = 6. @BumpNrunGilm0re PICK SIX. pic.twitter.com/GDYGBQf7ih
— New England Patriots (@Patriots) December 15, 2019

Gilmore said he knew what route Boyd was running on both of his interceptions.
“They’ve got to switch the play up, because — I wouldn’t say it was easy, but I knew the route,” the All-Pro corner said.
The loss dropped the Bengals to 1-13 on the season.
“We should have won,” Boyd told reporters. “We just didn’t do well in the passing game.”

Bills Vs. Steelers Live Stream: Watch ‘Sunday Night Football’ Game Online

Two of the NFL’s most surprising teams will square off in the Week 15 edition of “Sunday Night Football.”
Josh Allen and the 9-4 Buffalo Bills are set to face the 8-5 Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field. The Bills still have a shot at winning the AFC East, though they do not control their own destiny. Mike Tomlin, meanwhile, somehow has kept the Steelers in playoff contention despite a rash of injuries.

In fact, if the season ended today, the Bills and Steelers would be the AFC’s two wild card teams. Who will come out on top in this possible playoff preview? We’ll find out soon enough.
Here’s how to watch Bills vs. Steelers:
When: Sunday, Dec. 15, at 8:20 p.m. ET
TV: NBC
Live stream: FuboTV — free trial | NBC

Producer Involved In Patriots-Bengals Controversy Releases Statement

We learned a lot more about the Patriots’ videotaping controversy Sunday.

As you’re probably aware, New England allegedly sent a production crew to Cleveland last week to capture footage of an advanced scout for a “Do Your Job” segment. But a cameraman working under Dave Mondillo, a producer on the project, was found to be taping the Bengals’ sidelines, which violates the NFL rules.
It’s unclear what the Patriots’ punishment will be, though it’s rumored to be harsh. FOX Sports’ Jay Glazer released a video of the sideline incident Sunday morning.
Mondillo, an employee of Kraft Sports and Entertainment who captured the footage, was suspended, according to The Boston Globe’s Ben Volin. Mondillo now is speaking out, releasing a statement shortly after New England’s 34-13 win over Cincinnati at Paul Brown Stadium.
Read the entire statement below, per Boston 25’s Tom Leyden.
On December 8th I was doing what I have done for more than 18 years – working to produce high quality content that tells the unique, behind-the-scenes stories of people, players and the organization. It never occurred to me that my actions and the actions of my crew would be misconstrued.
Our department was charged with completing four Do Your Job segments before the end of the year. One of the segments was to follow a pro scout throughout his week to show the audience what his job entails.
Before the shoot began, I obtained permission and received credentials and a parking pass for Sunday’s game.
With permission in hand, we started taping on December 6th – following the scout’s travel through the weekend to Cleveland and obtained footage of him working in his hotel room and interviewed him about his job. The final element needed to complete the story was to shoot from the press box at Progressive Field to show the audience what his responsibilities are on game day.
We went directly to the press box and set up our camera to get the footage we needed. We interviewed and shot the Patriots scout sitting in a chair watching the action and panned back and forth from him to what he was seeing on the sidelines. We also took footage of the field as the intent was to show what he was looking at when he looked through his binoculars watching the game.
At that point, I went to the restroom and when I came back, my cameraman was told to stop shooting by someone from the NFL and he was joined by two others from the Bengals organization and an additional NFL security person. We stopped shooting immediately when asked to do so and cooperated fully. We had a detailed exchange about who we were and why we were there and what they wanted us to do. I gave the Sony SXS card to NFL security and we complied with their request, packed up and went home. I had no intention to provide footage to football operations, I did not provide any footage, and I was never asked to do so.
The Patriots have acknowledged from the beginning they inadvertently violated the NFL rules and accept full responsibility. Now we just have to wait and see what kind of punishment the team will receive and if Mondillo still will be an employee of Kraft Sports and Entertainment when all is said and done.

Patriots’ Offense Seemingly Started To Find Identity In Win Over Bengals

CINCINNATI — When all was said and done, there was reason to be optimistic about the New England Patriots’ offense after they toppled the Cincinnati Bengals 34-13.
The Patriots carried the ball 32 times for 175 yards with a touchdown, and that included two kneel-downs from quarterback Tom Brady. It was the most yards the Patriots have gained on the ground all season. Their previous high came in Week 13 against the Houston Texans when they rushed for 145 yards.

The Patriots trailed the Bengals 10-7 after the first quarter, but after they were able to take a 13-10 lead off of a fourth-down stop, recovered muffed punt and two field goals, they relied on their rushing attack to put the game away, totaling 76 rushing yards on 14 carries to eat up nearly nine minutes off the clock in the final period.
Granted, this was against a very bad Bengals team, but the Patriots’ offense might have found a bit of an identity after searching for one all season.
So, what propelled Sony Michel, Rex Burkhead and James White?
“Up front, it starts with the offensive line,” Burkhead said. “They were physical until the end. We’re doing the drill at the end, and they’re still finishing the game off.”
The offensive line, humble as always, passed the credit off elsewhere.
“I think our coaches did a great job,” center Ted Karras said. “I think everyone took it upon themselves this week to work on their craft even harder than we try to do normally. It came together in the second half for us.”
Michel led the way with 19 carries for 89 yards. Burkhead carried the ball six times for 53 yards with at 33-yard touchdown. White added three carries for 13 yards, and wide receiver N’Keal Harry took two jet sweeps for 22 yards. Brady knelt the ball twice for negative-2 yards.
“Guys just executed their assignments today,” Michel said. “We had the mindset of trying to play physical, and I think we did that a little bit today.”
Part of the reason why the Patriots were able to run the ball so well was that they were playing with a lead in the second half. And many of those points came off of stout plays on special teams and defense. On top of the fourth-down stop and recovered muffed punt, the Patriots also scored defensively off of a Stephon Gilmore pick-six.
And the marriage of special teams, defense and offense is how the Patriots will have to win down the stretch and into the playoffs without a high-powered passing attack.
“That is the key,” head coach Bill Belichick said. “You have to capitalize on those two areas. You don’t always control the ball on offense or defense. Many times field position is a result of special teams and you get it where you get it. You can’t always control where they get the ball. However, what you can control is getting the ball in the end zone, and that is a good thing.”
Now we’ll see if the Patriots can find similar success on the ground in Week 16 against a tougher foe in the Buffalo Bills. But Sunday’s returns were positive as the Patriots improved their record to 11-3.