The New England Patriots had nearly everything go their way on Sunday, and the hope is for the Bengals to slip up and lose against the Texans. Don't count on it.
But all things considered, the Patriots are in a pretty good spot to lock up the AFC East in week 12 against the Broncos. Here's how it can happen:
The Patriots: New England has to beat the Bills in week 11 on Monday Night Football, and then follow up with a victory against the incredibly mortal Broncos in week 12 on Sunday Night Football. With a hopefully healthy offensive line, these are both winnable games. Hopefully.
The Bills: Buffalo is in the midst of a three-game road trip. After facing the Patriots in week 11, the Patriots will need the Bills to lose to the Chiefs in Kansas City, dropping Buffalo to 5-6. This seems very plausible.
The Jets: New York is the wild card that has to fall into place. The Jets travel to face Houston and then host the Dolphins. If the Jets lose to the Dolphins, then they fall to five losses with three divisional losses. If the Patriots get to 11-0, it means that New England will have a maximum of two divisional losses, and that the Jets lose the tiebreaker. The Patriots would like the Jets to lose to the Texans, but the Dolphins game is the key.
The Dolphins: Miami faces the Cowboys next week. A Dolphins loss to the Cowboys, that coincides with a Patriots victory, will drop the Dolphins to six losses and eliminate Miami due to divisional record tiebreakers (the Dolphins already have four divisional losses).
So that's it. Patriots win the next two, the Bills lose to the Chiefs, the Jets lose to the Dolphins, and the Dolphins lose to the Cowboys, and the division is New England's yet again.
1. (9-0) New England Patriots - The Patriots would love to see the Broncos continue to tumble because a first round bye would be certain, and it would become a matter of homefield advantage with the Bengals.
2. (8-0) Cincinnati Bengals - Strength of victory is the tiebreaker and the Patriots have the edge.
3. (7-2) Denver Broncos - The AFC West isn't really in question, but how amazing would it be if the Chiefs or Raiders came back to win the division?
4. (4-5) Indianapolis Colts - The Colts have a one game lead over the 3-6 Jaguars and a half-game lead over the 3-5 Texans (playing tonight). Disgusting.
5. (6-4) Pittsburgh Steelers - Ben Roethlisberger was the back-up quarterback due to injuries, but he seemed just fine. He's not made of flesh and bone.
6. (5-4) Buffalo Bills - An upset in New York over the Jets leaves the Bills riding high. They get to face the Patriots on Monday Night football.
Mentions: (5-4) New York Jets, (4-5) Kansas City Chiefs, (4-5) Oakland Raiders, (4-5) Miami Dolphins, (3-5) Houston Texans, (3-6) Jacksonville Jaguars
1. (9-0) Carolina Panthers - They could seriously lock up homefield advantage as they're one of two good teams in the NFC.
2. (7-2) Arizona Cardinals - They beat the Seahawks, which is a great win, and it gives them the inside lane to a first round bye.
3. (7-2) Minnesota Vikings - Anyone have this? The Vikings have a game lead on the Packers, but don't expect it to last.
4. (5-5) New York Giants - Look at who is trying to sneak in with the No One Believes in Us mentality?
5. (6-3) Green Bay Packers - This is not a good football team without Jordy Nelson. The running game is awful and the defense is terrible.
6. (6-3) Atlanta Falcons - I don't see why the Falcons can't make some noise in the NFC playoffs.
Mentions: (4-5) Washington. No other teams are within a game of a playoff spot.