Monday, November 17, 2014

Patriots at the wheel in the AFC with six games to go


It’s amazing how the fate of a season can change over the course of a little over a month in the National Football League.

Six weeks ago, the Patriots were fresh off of a 41-14 drubbing to the Kansas City Chiefs on the biggest stage an NFL week has to offer.

Given, the Patriots typically do not play as well on the road as they do in the confines of Gillette Stadium--let alone hostile environments like Arrowhead--but the Monday night beatdown caused enough worry around the league to speculate that Bill Belichick and Co. were on the way down.

Washed up. Tom Brady’s too old. Not enough weapons.

But was there really any doubt that this team would turn things around? Did anyone actually believe that this team would fall so far, just months after yet another appearance in the AFC Championship game?

Fast-forward six weeks, and those “washed up” Patriots (8-2) are back in the driver’s seat, a place they have been around this time for the past fifteen years or so.

Sunday night’s 42-20 win over the Indianapolis Colts (6-4) not only solidified New England’s presence, and re-emergence if you will, in the AFC, but it provided separation in the best possible way.

The Denver Broncos (7-3) lost to a St. Louis Rams team playing their third-string quarterback, and were bit by the injury bug along the way. There are no timetables for wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders' (concussion) and tight end Julius Thomas’ (ankle) returns.

As for the team the Pats beat Sunday night, if the season were to end with both teams tied in the loss column, the Pats would win the tiebreaker over the Colts. Same goes for the Cincinnati Bengals 6-3-1), and the Pats already have a game and a half on them.

New England is in complete control of its No. 1 seed destiny—again. And if history has any inclination of how this season might play out, that’s extremely good news for Patriots fans.

However, even with big wins over Denver and Indianapolis in back-to-back games, the schedule does not get much easier for New England, which travels home to play the Detroit Lions, who currently sit at No. 1 in total defense in the league. After that, its two straight road games against the Green Bay Packers and San Diego Chargers (the latter on Sunday Night Football) before closing out the season with three straight division games.

This team will be tested throughout the final six weeks of the season, but it is a lot better looking down to see who’s chasing you in the standings than needing other teams to control your own destiny for you.

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