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NFL: Bills, Titans, Falcons advance

Atlanta Falcons cornerback Robert Alford celebrates an interception against the Carolina Panthers. The Falcons won, 22-10. (AP)

Atlanta Falcons cornerback Robert Alford celebrates an interception against the Carolina Panthers. The Falcons won, 22-10. (AP)

LOS ANGELES (AFP) – The Buffalo Bills are headed back to the NFL playoffs for the first time since 1999, thanks to a 22-16 win over the Miami Dolphins in their regular-season finale on Sunday – and a little help from the Cincinnati Bengals.

The Bengals stunned the Ravens in Baltimore, where a win would have sent the hosts into the post-season and eliminated the Bills.

The Ravens had rallied from a 24-10 third-quarter deficit and led 27-24 when Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton connected with Tyler Boyd for a touchdown on fourth down and 12 yards with 44 seconds remaining.

Prior to Sunday, the Bills had the longest active playoff drought in all four major US team sports.

They had done all they could with their win in Miami, despite a third-quarter ankle injury to six-time Pro Bowl running back LeSean McCoy.

Meantime, the Atlanta Falcons, stunned by the Patriots’ astonishing comeback in last season’s Super Bowl, kept their bid for redemption alive with a 22-10 victory over the Carolina Panthers.

”I’m really excited to be in,” Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan said. ”Now we’ve got more work to do.”

The defeat meant the Panthers go into the post-season as a wild card team, with the New Orleans Saints grabbing the NFC South division title despite a 31-24 loss at Tampa Bay.

The Tennessee Titans had booked their AFC wild card in more straightforward fashion, holding on for a 15-10 victory over the AFC South champion Jacksonville Jaguars – who will host Buffalo next week.

Ryan Succop booted three field goals and quarterback Marcus Mariota found Derrick Henry with a 66-yard touchdown pass and the Titans defense delivered a strong performance to put Tennessee back in the playoffs for the first time since 2008.

The Titans booked a first-round clash in Kansas City, and also extinguished the hopes of the Los Angeles Chargers, whose 30-10 win over the Oakland Raiders proved insufficient.

As four teams scrambled for the last two AFC spots, the Super Bowl Champion New England Patriots locked up homefield advantage as the top seed in the conference with a 26-6 victory over the New York Jets.

Superstar quarterback Tom Brady and the Pats, already assured of the AFC East division title and a first-round bye, secured the No. 1 seed for the second straight season and the seventh time overall.