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Patriots lock down first-round bye with win over Jets

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The New England Patriots clinched a postseason bye and kept themselves in position for the No. 1 seed with a 17-16 win over the New York Jets on Sunday. Our takeaways:

1. The Patriots become the first team in NFL history to secure a first-round playoff bye in five consecutive seasons. The Jets made them earn it in a game where New England was limited to just 231 yards of total offense. Tom Brady hovered near the Gabbert Zone at 5.2 yards per attempt and Shane Vereen, their leading rusher, gained just 38 yards. And yet ...

2. This felt like Rex Ryan's last chance to give Jets owner Woody Johnson pause before cleaning house in the offseason. Instead, Ryan and the Jets get swept by the Patriots this season by a total of three points. Ouch.

3. Jets center Nick Mangold was carted off in the first half with a lower leg injury. NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport reported that an X-ray revealed no break. Players from both teams gathered around Mangold before he was taken off the field, a sign of the respect the veteran has earned.

4. The stat line says Geno Smith had a decent day, and that's pretty much accurate. But Smith made two mistakes that essentially cost New York the game. His lone interception gave the Patriots a short field and set up the go-ahead score in the third quarter. In the fourth quarter, Smith took a sack on 3rd-and-4 that lost 10 yards and set up a 52-yard miss by Nick Folk. The Jets need a quarterback.

5. Back to Rex. He deserved a better fate in what will probably be his final home game as Jets coach. Ryan essentially shut down Brady by coaching up a bargain-basement cornerback group and dialing up schemes to put pressure on the quarterback. Rob Gronkowski had a touchdown catch, but was quiet overall. Ryan is a gifted defensive mind who will be a head coach beyond 2014. But where?

The latest Around The NFL Podcast recaps every Week 16 game and breaks down the playoff picture. Find more Around The NFL content on NFL NOW.

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