One more episode to go before the NFL’s version of ‘Survivor’ wraps up its regular season and 20 teams get voted off the island. This week’s challenge for the Pats is a must-win game vs. the Jets in Foxborough. The prize: Number one seed in the AFC and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. That’s motivation, and coach Belichick should have everyone focused and ready to play (maybe even in the first half this time) on Sunday. In fact there’s no reason the Patriots shouldn’t come away with a win — except for their Injury Report, which reads like a starting roster.
So no rest for the wounded until the Patriots take care of business, and then hit the coveted bye week to rest and heal up. That’s motivation too. Pats win by 14.
Around the AFC East:
New England (12-3) vs. NY Jets (5-10)
Buffalo (8-7) at Miami (6-9)
Pittsburgh (12-3) vs. Cleveland (0-15)
Jacksonville (10-5) at Tennessee (8-7)
Kansas City (9-6) at Denver (5-10)
Baltimore (9-6) vs. Cincinnati (6-9)
LA Chargers (8-7) vs. Oakland (6-9)
Houston (4-11) at Indianapolis (3-12)
1st - Chris Simms (Bleacher Report): The Patriots didn't play their crispest game, and Brady has been off the last few weeks. Maybe it's the achilles injury, but Brady hasn't looked like the quarterback he was earlier in the year. That's concerning if you're a Pats fan.
What's also concerning is the fact we've been seeing the defense give up big plays in recent weeks, similar to the way it was in the first month of the season.
What's encouraging is the fact New England was able to get its run game going against the Bills. This is something the team needs to rely on a little more in the postseason. The Patriots can get a bit pass-happy at times, and they're better when they stay patient with the ground game.
New England isn't perfect, but it's the best team in the AFC and has already bought itself an extra week of playoff preparation. A win next Sunday would give the Patriots home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.
1st - Frank Schwab (Yahoo! Sports): We’ll all remember how the Steelers game ended, but don’t forget Sept. 24. Trailing Houston 32-28 in the final two minutes, Tom Brady converted a third-and-12 to Rob Gronkowski and a third-and-18 to Danny Amendola, then threw a touchdown to Brandin Cooks with 23 seconds left. Without that, the Patriots wouldn’t be in position to get the No. 1 seed. It’s a reminder that the big moments in September are just as important as the ones in January.
1st - Pete Prisco (CBS Sports): It took them a while to get going against the Bills, but as usual they found a way. Beat the Jets this week, and the top seed is theirs.
1st - Kevin Dillon (MassLive): After a slow start against the Bills, Dion Lewis took over. The second half was a dominant performance from the Patriots, who are one step closer to capturing the No. 1 seed in the AFC. Tom Brady has some things he needs to clean up heading into the postseason, but at this point, the Patriots are just trying to stay healthy.
1st - Mike Florio (ProFootballTalk): Nothing can stop the trio of Bill Belichick, Tom Brady, and Al Riveron.
1st - Mark Maske (Washington Post): The Patriots still have a bit of Week 17 work to do to secure the top seed in the AFC playoffs. That means no chance to rest QB Tom Brady and other key starters. Coach Bill Belichick seems to prefer it that way, anyway.
1st - Elliot Harrison (NFL.com): The Patriots lurched a step closer to defending their Super Bowl crown with the win in Foxborough on Sunday. Taking that step meant pulling away in the second half, even if New England got a little help from replay ... for the second straight week ... which makes non- Patriots fans hate the Patriots even more, which in turn fuels New England fans' desire to rub their team's success in the haters' faces. Once again, the offense did just fine with a different RB rotation, including Dion Lewis adding 153 yards and two touchdowns. No James White? No problem. No Rex Burkhead? No problem. Well, unless you'd been leaning on Burkhead in fantasy and that was your championship week, with a speedpass to Wet'n'Wild on the line. Then you couldn't have cared less about Dion Lewis' prolific day.
1st - Experts (ESPN): New England has won 12 games for the eighth straight season, the longest streak of its kind in NFL history. A potential 13th win is on the line in Week 17 in Foxborough against the Jets. The last time Tom Brady lost a regular-season home game to the Jets: 2006.
1st - Analysis Team (Pro Football Focus): Another week, another win (and cover) for the defending world champions. Tom Brady was pressured on just 4-of-30 dropbacks against the Bills, compiling a 112.2 rating on his 26 clean passing attempts. Dion Lewis carried the ball a career-high 24 times, for 129 yards (68 after contact), and provided the balance that the Patriots have generated with multiple players in the backfield all season. With the No. 1 seed to play for against the Jets on Sunday at Foxboro, look for the Patriots to take care of business against a New York team that’s been much better at home this season than they have been on the road.
1st - Staff (USA Today): Ground game has quietly exceeded 190 yards in three of past five games, a nice fallback given Tom Brady has six INTs over same stretch.
1st - MMQB Staff (SI).
1st - Staff (AP Pro32).
1st - Adam Stites (SB Nation): While the playoffs will feature fun newcomers like the Jaguars and Rams, it’s many of the familiar faces back at the top of the power rankings going into Week 17. And who else should carry that torch than the Patriots after a 37-16 blowout of the Bills?
The Patriots will need just one postseason win in Gillette Stadium to go to the AFC Championship for the seventh consecutive season. And as long as the Patriots don’t drop a Week 17 game against the Jets, that conference championship game will be in New England too.
Tom Brady may be 40, but the Patriots dynasty is alive and well.
1st - Vinnie Iyer (Sporting News): The Patriots had another non-touchdown catch go their way against the Bills, but they made their own luck with their defense and running game picking up Tom Brady at the perfect time.
1st - Tyler Lauletta (Business Insider): One thing to know: With a first round bye already secured, the Patriots have spent recent days bolstering their depth, most notably adding Pro Bowl linebacker and former Steeler James Harrison. Harrison could help the Patriots in a number of ways, especially if they end up facing Pittsburgh again in an AFC Championship rematch..