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Patriots defeat Jaguars, clinch 2021 playoff berth with Dolphins loss

The Patriots are back in the playoffs. We break down how it happened and where they stand.

Damien Harris #37 of the New England Patriots celebrates with teammate Mac Jones #10 after scoring a touchdown in the first quarter of the game against the Jacksonville Jaguars at Gillette Stadium on January 02, 2022 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. Photo by Maddie Malhotra/Getty Images

The New England Patriots are headed back to the playoffs after a one-year hiatus. The Patriots clinched a playoff berth in Week 17 thanks to an easy win over the Jaguars coupled with the Dolphins losing to the Titans.

The Patriots come out of Week 17 with a 10-6 record and still in the running to win the AFC East. The Bills beat the Falcons to remain tied for first. Buffalo has the tiebreaker edge and will win the division with a win in Week 18 or a Patriots loss.

How the Patriots got here

The Patriots missed the playoffs last year in the first season without Tom Brady. A year later, rookie Mac Jones has impressed in helping them return to the postseason. The offense ranked 14th in efficiency thanks to a second overall rushing attack. The offense is not a big-play threat on every snap, but has done a solid job week in and week out.

The more impressive aspect of this team is a defense that ranks third in overall efficiency. The unit is third against the pass and eighth against the run. Matthew Judon has keyed the pass rush with 12.5 sacks and J.C. Jackson has led the team with seven interceptions.