The New England Patriots locked up the AFC East title for the 11th straight season with a 24-17 win over the Buffalo Bills on Saturday at Gillette Stadium. For the Patriots, the win erased all doubts about their capability to dominate the AFC East, but for ESPN analyst Stephen A. Smith, New England’s victory over the Bills should strike fear in the hearts of its AFC rivals ahead of the postseason.

During Monday’s “First Take”, Smith talked about the Patriots’ important win over the Bills, saying “What I peeled from this game is the AFC needs to be worried.” Smith said everyone should be worried about seeing the Patriots in the Super Bowl, not when the option is Patrick Mahomes of the Kansas City Chiefs, Lamar Jackson of the Baltimore Ravens or even Deshaun Watson of the Houston Texans.

Smith particularly took notice of Brady’s pocket presence and his ability to feel the rush and to get rid of the ball quickly in their win over the Bills. With the way the Patriots reduced their mistakes to a minimum and moving the chain is the way they beat any contender in the playoffs. Smith added that the Patriots have been in pretty tough situations several times and they still managed to pull it out, like their crucial win over the Bills. The win moved the Patriots closer to the No. 2 seed in the AFC and the first-round bye that goes with it. The Patriots can seal it with a win or a tie over the Miami Dolphins or a Chiefs loss in Week 17. The Patriots lead the Chiefs by one game and if they end up in a tie, Kansas City will earn the No.

2 seed by virtue of their 23-16 win over New England.

Patriots consider Dolphins clash a playoff game

In their first meeting in Week 2, the Patriots annihilated the Dolphins, 43-0. Oddsmakers have placed the Patriots as overwhelming 15.5-point favorites over the Dolphins at the Westgate SuperBook in Las Vegas.

However, Head Coach Bill Belichick doesn’t want his team to take the Dolphins lightly in their rematch at Gillette Stadium.

In his message following their win over the Bills, Belichick was very clear, saying "look, this is very simple now: Miami is a playoff game." Belichick told his team that if they beat Miami, then they will earn a bye.

If they don’t, they’ll lose the first-round bye and they will be playing in the Wild Card Week. "This is a big week. We are in the playoffs now,” said Belichick.

Dez Bryant interested in Patriots next season

Free-agent Dez Bryant is hoping that he could join a playoff team this season as he tries to resurrect his playing career. However, no team has inquired about his services heading into the playoffs. Now, Bryant is positive that he could hook up with a team next season. When asked by a fan on Twitter if he’s willing to be reunited with his old team, the Dallas Cowboys, Bryant said he’s open to joining them next season.

If not, Bryant said he would see what’s up with the Patriots, New Orleans Saints, Baltimore Ravens, and the Chiefs.

Last season, Bryant signed with the Saints but he suffered a season-ending Achilles injury before he could suit up. Earlier, it was rumored that the Patriots might sign Bryant to add another veteran presence to their wide receiving corps.

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