If you shut off your television after the New England Patriots defeated the New York Jets on Sunday afternoon, I wouldn’t blame you, but you would have missed out on three important AFC games that all went in the Patriots favor.
Here’s a quick rundown, based on least-to-most important.
Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers made his case for MVP consideration completing 28 of 29 passes, including his first 25 passes, as Los Angeles rolled over the hapless Arizona squad. The Chargers are now 8-3, in firm control of a playoff spot, and one game behind the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC West.
The Chiefs already beat the Chargers in the season opener, but Los Angeles has a chance to even the score in week 15. The longer the Chiefs have to look over their shoulder at the Chargers, the less rest the Chiefs will have heading into the postseason and the greater the chance that Kansas City could lose their grip on the division and have to play during wild card weekend.
Kansas City is on their bye right now, but they play at home against the Ravens and Chargers before going on the road to face the Seahawks. This stretch is book-ended by games against the Oakland Raiders. The Patriots need the Chiefs to drop one or two of these games.
The Broncos intercepted Ben Roethlisberger in the end zone to hold on to their slim victory and sent the Steelers record down to 7-3-1.
The Steelers host the Chargers next, go on the road against the Raiders, and then host the Patriots. They finish the season on the road against the Saints and then hosting the Bengals. Pittsburgh’s tie likely means that tiebreakers won’t come into play, but when you look at their schedule, a 10-5-1 record would be a good finish.
Basically, what I’m considering is whether the Patriots can reach 11 wins, with one of those coming against the Steelers. If so, New England should be able to snag a first round bye.
Adam Vinatieri always delivers.
The last-second victory by the Colts handed the Miami Dolphins their sixth loss in their past eight games and gave the Patriots absolute control over the AFC East.
As Bill Belichick always says, winning the division is the first major milestone each year and the Dolphins loss helps in a major way. If New England can beat the Minnesota Vikings next week and the Dolphins in week 14, the Patriots will clinch the division title for the 10th straight year and 15th out of the past 16 years.
The only way the Patriots week can improve is if the Tennessee Titans upset the Houston Texans on Monday Night Football. But even if the Texans win- and push the Steelers down to fourth place in the AFC- the Patriots hold the head-to-head tiebreaker with Houston and the Texans’ upcoming games against the Browns and Colts no longer look like gimmes.
The Patriots are back in second-place in the AFC and should be in strong position to secure yet another consecutive first round bye.