NEW YORK (AP)Tom Brady and the New England Patriots will be playing in the postseason a week earlier than usual this year.
The defending Super Bowl champs open the playoffs during wild-card weekend for the first time since 2009 after they lost 27-24 to Miami on Sunday and Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs beat the Los Angeles Chargers 31-21 to earn a first-round bye.
”We didn’t play the way we’re capable of playing and it ended up costing us,” Brady said. ”Just too many bad mistakes.”
The Patriots (12-4) are the No. 3 overall seed in the AFC and will have to fix things in a hurry as they host Tennessee (9-7) next weekend.
”We’ve got a game next week, we’ve got to get ready to go,” Patriots safety Devin McCourty said. ”Nobody should feel sorry for us, we shouldn’t feel sorry for ourselves. Our goal is to play in the playoffs. We got a shot next week at all of that.”
The Titans clinched their spot by beating Houston 35-14, eliminating both Pittsburgh and Oakland in the process. All three teams had a chance at the playoffs, but Tennessee had the easiest path by needing to win – and got it against a Texans squad that rested several starters, including quarterback Deshaun Watson.
”I think it’s great when you can determine whether you get to continue to play football,” Titans coach Mike Vrabel said. ”There was some great effort, but we’re going to have to improve and play better. Everything gets harder from here on out.”
The last time New England played on wild-card weekend, it lost at home to the Ravens. The Patriots have never made it to the Super Bowl with Brady and coach Bill Belichick while playing in the opening round.
”We’ve got to move forward and get ready to go or the end of our season will be next week if we don’t turn the page and play good football, way better than today,” McCourty said. ”Nobody feels sorry for the Patriots not getting a first-round bye in the playoffs.”
Meanwhile, the Chiefs (12-4) are the No. 2 seed and will be able to watch the opening round, along with the top-seeded Baltimore Ravens (14-2).
”We’ll step back, the guys will come in tomorrow, we’ll have a team meeting, I’ll give them a schedule for what’s going on the next week here during the bye week,” Chiefs coach Andy Reid said. ”The main thing is we get work done, but we rest up and get ready for whoever we might play.”
Kansas City’s victory also locked Houston into the No. 4 seed, and the Texans (10-6) will host the Buffalo Bills (10-6) next weekend.
Despite resting several starters, including quarterback Lamar Jackson, running back Mark Ingram, guard Marshal Yanda and safety Earl Thomas, Baltimore cruised past Pittsburgh 28-10 to ride into the playoffs on a 12-game winning streak.
”It’s the best team in football in the regular season this year, but that doesn’t count for anything in the next season,” coach John Harbaugh said. ”In the next season, we have to obviously go to work this week and become a better football team.”
In the NFC, Green Bay earned at least a first-round bye with a 23-20 victory at Detroit. Now, Aaron Rodgers and the Packers (13-3) will wait on the result on the San Francisco-Seattle matchup Sunday night to see if they’ll have the No. 1 overall seed – and home-field advantage — in the conference.
”The NFC is wide open,” Rodgers said. ”I think home-field advantage can be very important.”
If the 49ers win, they get it. Otherwise, it will be the Packers in the top spot.
”We’re hot,” Rodgers said after helping his team rally to its fifth straight win. ”But you’ve got to start all over in the playoffs and it’s all great football teams now, so the margin of error is even smaller.”
New Orleans routed Carolina 42-10 to finish 13-3 in the regular season, but Drew Brees and Co. will also have to wait to see what their playoff path will be.
The NFC South champions can’t get home-field advantage because of Green Bay’s win, but can earn a first-round bye if Seattle beats San Francisco. A win by the 49ers would push the Saints to the No. 3 seed and a home game against Minnesota (10-6) in the wild-card round next weekend.
Injury-ravaged Philadelphia (9-7) won the NFC East with a 34-17 win over the New York Giants, eliminating Dallas with the victory. The Eagles, with their second division title in three years, will host the loser of the 49ers-Seahawks showdown.
”This team, when it’s crunch time this time of year, we get it done,” Eagles defensive tackle Tim Jernigan said after his team finished the schedule with a four-game inni.
AP Pro Football Writer Rob Maaddi, and AP Sports Writers Dave Ginsburg, Kyle Hightower, Larry Lage, Kristie Rieken and Dave Skretta contributed.
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