logoI know it’s been pretty quiet around here lately, but an occasion such as this warrants nothing less than continuous coverage from the PD news desk.

The Patriots, of course, have to beat Buffalo today and then watch helplessly as the Miami Dolphins, New York Jets, Jacksonville Jaguars and Baltimore Ravens decide New England’s playoff fate in two four o’clock games.

If the Jets hold off the onrushing Dolphins, the Patriots could end up as AFC East champs for a sixth consecutive season. That would give them the third seed and a home playoff game, likely against Baltimore, next week. On the other hand, the Pats can still get in even if Miami wins, but only if the Ravens cough up a fur ball against the failing Jaguars at home. That would put the Pats in sixth, and in Miami for wild card weekend.

I like that matchup, by the way.

I’m pessimistic it’s going to work out in the end for the Patriots, though. Miami and Baltimore – the two teams the Patriots need to lose – have the advantage of knowing a win puts them in. They’re not beholden to anyone else today, only themselves, and with that clarity comes strength, I think. I’d be surprised if they weren’t both completely confident and focused today. I’d be even more surprised if the Jets and Jaguars were.

As we’ve discussed before, the Patriots have nobody but themselves to blame for this predicament, but doesn’t it figure they’d be playing their best ball of the season just as they’re about to become the first 11-5 team to miss the playoffs since the league went to eight divisions? Even with all the injuries, you’d have to give the Pats a puncher’s chance if they made it to the tournament. The offense is rolling (they’ve hit 40 points in three of the last six games) and the special teams have rallied, creating field position advantages that even the Patriots defense could work with. Things have smoothed out a bit, and for the first time all year, the team has won three straight.

So even though I’m not feeling upbeat about the continuation of this most unusual of seasons, I’m going to hang in here today until the last door has been closed on them. I invite you to join in with your comments, after the jump.

7:06 PM

Two minute warning and the Dolphins have the ball with a seven point lead. Brett Favre played about like you’d expect him to. If the Jets had even a halfway competent quarterback today, they might have won. Just look at that last interception, the third, a rushed slant to Laverenus Coles that Favre threw right to the Dolphin defense. Brett Favre couldn’t have thrown a more typical Brett Favre pick if Bett Favre had tried.  The whole scene should be etched onto his fraudulent Hall of Fame bust.

But the milk was really spilt several weeks ago and there’s no crying about it now. The Patriots could have beaten the Colts in Indy or the Jets in Foxboro and none of this would have made any difference. That’s the final story today.

 5:32 PM

We’re about finished here, I think. Brett Favre clearly doesn’t give a shit, so he’s just going through the motions. For Brett Favre, thhat means throwing evermore ridiculous interceptions even when he’s not being pressured. And so there he is, the biggest fraud the NFL has seen in its history. There isn ‘t a Patriots fan alive that doesn’t want Kellen Clemens in this game right f**king now.

4:37 PM

First Favre ball crushing interception – a lofted beauty to Miami’s Andre Goodman, the only man who could catch the ball – while trying to hit a non-competitive Leon Washington on a wheel route.  I cannot believe we’re thinking he can win today.

4:15 PM

Brett Favre just gave the least impassioned pre game speech of all time. “Hey, if it works out, great.” I don’t feel good about this.

3:49 PM

Well, if that’s all the football we get this year, at least they finished 11-5 after losing the NFL’s best player in the very first game.

This was a thoroughly professional win today, this 13-0 road shutout, and at least they finished undefeated in December when they could least afford a loss. I’m not  sure exactly what that says, but I lean towards the positive.

Before I forget – James Sanders returned today and did one hell of a job covering Buffalo’s tight ends, which played a big role in today’s shut out. They couldn’t throw the ball in the wind, and Sanders took away Buffalo’s one avenue for the completed pass.

And Matt Cassel threw something like ten passes and played like a poised veteran throughout. delivering another needed win. If he’s finished for 2008, I’d have to say he’s nearly lived up to 2001 Tom Brady in his time under center for the Patriots. They could have gone in the tank when Brady went down, and they didn’t, and they took their seasion to – at minimum – to 7:00 PM on the last Sunday of the season. Make no  mistake about it – they could have never done anything like that without a world-class performance by Matt Cassel. Bless his heart.

Now it’s the waiting and watching and wondering. It’s pretty frustrating to think that a season that ended on such a high note now rides on the dubious decision-making of one Brett Favre.  The Pats earned that fate, but nevertheless; they’re left to depend on Brett Favre.  

3:13 PM

The  Bills did  nothing with the wind and the Patriots have driven for another field goal and a 13-0 lead with ten minutes left.

It would take an utter collapse by the Patriots defense to take the 4:00 pm games out of play.

2:56 PM

The Pats took that Edwards turnover and put up seven points with it on two big Matt Cassel plays that led to LaMont Jordan’s touchdown plunge and a 10 point lead with about twenty minutes left.

Cassel came up large with a designed bootleg to pick up a key first down to extend the drive, and when he hit Wes Welker on a wide open 4th down conversion to the Bills 2 – his only throw into the wind all day.

Now the Bills have the wind behind them and about four minutes left to make a game of the fourth quarter.

2:36 PM

HUGEST of plays by Jarvis Green there. The Bills are beating the Patriots up along their depleted line of scrimmage. The veteran had a clean shot at the quarterback and brought the ball out with it. If the Pats could drive for a touchdown on the short field here, they could pull away.

2:13 PM

Bizarre ending to the first half with whistles blowing but the clock – in the Bills’ home stadium – running to zero before Buffalo could do anything with a scoring opportunity inside the New England 15.

Strangely, it makes gives me hope the Pats will somehow overcome the elements and the Bills and live to see 4:00 pm after all. 

The Patriots took off after the Lindell miss and drove inside the Buffalo ten, but they had to go to Gostkowski again, who missed as well. It was a pretty good example of the wind’s effect as even the short 28 yarder was blown wide right.

Buffalo responded with their best drive of the day – because nobody can tackle Fred Jackson – but they ran out of time outs and time itself before they could get anything for it.

I think it’s safe to say the Bills are taking advantage of a missing Richard Seymour and a disabled Ty Warren. The Pats are are in the gaps, but Jackson disappears in a pile and comes out the other side unescorted. That leaves him to bowl over people like Brandon Meriweather and Jonathan Wilhite.

If the Bills could finish a drive, the Patriots might be in trouble. But I really don’t think they’ve shown themselves to be finishers yet.

2:04 PM

God forbid this game should come down to a field goal into the wind. Or with the wind.  Either one.

I was going to say I can’t see Buffalo scoring a touchdown, but Fred Jackson is running wild at the moment. The Patriots are not having an easy time of it at all.  They’re being outrushed now and Trent Edwards has not thrown an incomplete pass yet.

1:47 PM

Awkward first quarter for the Pats, with the wind. It’s obviously a major factor, and now they’ll have to have it in their face for the next fifteen minutes. They produced just three points with the wind in their favor. I’m not sure having the wind at your back is any great help. If Matthew Slater could recover a fumble, this would be a 10-0 game. I guess it wasn’t exactly a bunny.

Lindell just missed a field goal, badly, with the wind. This wind is not going to be good for anybody.

12:43 PM

Now Reiss has Tom Curran of nbcsports.com saying that Tom Brady remains behind in his scheduled rehab and may have to have additional surgery to remove scar tissue in his left knee. Curran says this means the Patriots have to think long and hard about tagging Matt Cassel before he hits free agency in March.

If I was cynical, this would seem like laying the groundwork for plausible deniability when the open market is snatched away from an extremely well-positioned free agent quarterback.

Just about fifteen minutes away now. This is going to be a memorable Sunday one way or another.

11:51 AM

As the above indicates, I’ve probably overlooked the Bills all week. I’m worrying about the Jets and Jaguars while never giving a second thought to the notion that the Patriots could actually lose today. I see that Marshawn Lynch, Roscoe Parrish and Jason Peters aren’t playing, which makes me feel a little bit better about the Pats missing Richard Seymour and Lewis Sanders.

Mike Reiss has been saying all morning that it’s extremely windy in Buffalo. Good thing the Pats have the 7th best rushing offense in the league (the Bills are 19th defensively), because it sounds like it will be tough to throw the ball today.