Reigning Super Bowl champion New England and the Houston Texans clinched NFL division titles with victories Saturday, Houston sealing a playoff berth and the Patriots moving closer to a first-round bye.
New England held off a late Buffalo fightback for a 24-17 home triumph to secure an 11th consecutive AFC East division title while the Texans forced five turnovers in a 23-20 victory at Tampa Bay to claim the AFC South crown.
And the San Francisco 49ers edged the Los Angeles Rams 34-31 on Robbie Gould's game-ending 33-yard field goal to boost their chances at a first-round bye. The result also clinched a playoff spot for Minnesota by eliminating the Rams from the hunt.
Tom Brady, the 42-year-old Patriots quarterback with a record six Super Bowl titles, completed 26-of-33 passes for 271 yards and a touchdown and also ignited two fourth-quarter scoring drives to rally New England past the Bills, who fell to 3-32 all-time against Brady.
"Amazing accomplishment and great win," Brady said. "That's a damn good football team we beat. Give credit to our guys. We came back in the fourth quarter. Our defense has been playing great all year. Another hard-fought game. I'm glad we won."
The Patriots (12-3) would secure a first-round playoff bye with a home victory next week over Miami (3-11).
"This was a playoff game. Next week is a playoff game," Patriots coach Bill Belichick said. "We'll keep building this thing and keep rolling. We're in the playoffs now."
An offensive pass interference call wiped out a 33-yard Brady touchdown pass to Ben Watson early in the third quarter, forcing the Patriots to settle for a 51-yard Nick Folk field goal and a 13-10 lead.
Buffalo seized the lead on the next drive when John Brown raced past New England's defenders, caught a Josh Allen pass and raced untouched into the end zone to complete a 53-yard touchdown play as the Bills grabbed a 17-13 advantage.
It was Buffalo's longest play from scrimmage all season.
In response, Brady drove the Patriots 77 yards in 11 plays but was stopped two yards from the goal line on a third-down run and the Patriots settled for a 20-yard Folk field goal to pull within 17-16 with 10:47 to go.
New England forced a Buffalo punt and Brady drove the Patriots 59 yards in seven plays, Rex Burkhead's 1-yard touchdown run putting the hosts back in front with 5:06 remaining.
Brady flipped a 2-point conversion pass to Julian Edelman to boost New England's lead to the final margin.
The Bills drove to the Patriots 8-yard line in the final minutes but New England's defenders made two sacks and forced an incomplete pass, setting up a final desperate toss into the end zone that J.C. Jackson batted away to seal New England's win.
Buffalo's Stephen Hauschka kicked a 35-yard field goal to open the scoring but the Patriots seized the lead on Brady's 8-yard touchdown pass to Matt LaCosse.
Brady directed the longest drive surrendered by the Bills this year on a 17-play, 81-yard march that lasted nearly nine minutes and ended on a 36-yard Folk field goal for a 10-3 New England lead.
Buffalo drove 59 yards in 32 seconds with Allen flipping a 1-yard touchdown pass to Dion Dawkins that put Buffalo level 10-10 at half-time.
- Texans reach playoffs -
The Texans (10-5) earned a fourth playoff berth in five seasons as Deshaun Watson threw for 184 yards and ran for 37 more, Ka'imi Fairbairn kicked three field goals and Bradley Roby returned an interception for a touchdown.
Houston won for the fourth time in five games, a run that included a win over the Patriots.
Houston joined New England, Buffalo, Baltimore and Kansas City in the American Conference playoffs with Pittsburgh and Tennessee, both 8-6, fighting for the final spot.
The playoff-bound 49ers improved to 12-3 after Jimmy Garoppolo threw a 46-yard pass to Emmanuel Sanders with 35 seconds remaining to set up Gould's game-winning field goal.
"It was just a battle," Garoppolo said. "It was a fun game."
San Francisco, Seattle, New Orleans, Green Bay and Minnesota have sealed National Conference playoff berths with either Dallas or Philadelphia set to win the NFC East division for the last spot.
New England quarterback Tom Brady threw for 271 yards and a touchdown to spark the Patriots over Buffalo 24-17 in an NFL game