I broke down the NFC playoff image two weeks in the past, which basically had two assured spots after which 9 groups in a free-for-all for the opposite 4 alternatives. The Falcons and Packers have in all probability performed their manner out of that race, however we’re nonetheless taking a look at seven groups for 4 spots. Some good group goes to miss out.

Let’s run by means of the AFC, the place issues are a bit clearer. 5 groups are big favorites to make the postseason, in accordance to ESPN’s Soccer Energy Index (FPI), however they’re all preventing for seeding and holding off the competitors. The sixth spot goes to be enjoyable chaos — Monday evening’s recreation could have a huge effect — and there is nonetheless an inexpensive likelihood a kind of 5 groups might slip and make an sudden tumble out of the playoff image.

I am going to begin by wanting on the backside of the race and the three groups that would wish to string collectively a giant streak to begin dreaming in regards to the playoffs:

Leap to a group:
MIA | CIN | DEN
TEN | IND | BAL | HOU
LAC | PIT | NE | KC

Tier I: The intense outsiders

These groups mainly have to run the desk or come shut to make it into the postseason. The excellent news for these fan bases: It occurs greater than you may assume. In 2017, the Payments have been at 5-5 after the Nathan Peterman recreation, however they beat the Chiefs, completed Four-2, and sneaked into the playoffs. The 2015 Steelers have been 6-5 and completed Four-1 to win a wild-card berth. The 2013 Chargers have been left for useless at Four-6, however they won 5 of their final six video games to make the postseason at 9-7.

FPI playoff possibilities: 1.Eight %

The Dolphins actually wanted to win Sunday’s recreation towards the Colts by which they led 24-14 with lower than 9 minutes to go and failed to give you a victory. Adam Gase’s playcalling got here in for criticism, provided that the Dolphins’ closing two drives defending that lead mixed for zero first downs, minus-1 yards, and fewer than two full minutes taken off of the clock.

Gase chalked up his decision-making to the Colts’ run blitzes and poor discipline place, however the Colts aren’t the primary group to run blitz in a detailed recreation. The Dolphins had poor discipline place as a result of Xavien Howard, who had two interceptions on consecutive Colts snaps, took a private foul for a late hit on Eric Ebron’s game-tying landing, which was adopted by a pair of penalties (one among which was accepted) on the following quick kickoff. The Dolphins did not execute with the sport on the road.

Kenyan Drake had 13 touches for 96 yards and two touchdowns towards the Colts. AP Picture/AJ Mast

Whereas Miami was ready to pressure Andrew Luck into two interceptions and obtained the primary sack on Luck since early October, the Dolphins have not had the go rush wanted to maintain up towards the harder parts of their schedule. Miami ranks 29th in sack charge regardless of a roster by which 4 of the six highest cap hits belong to pass-rushers with Robert Quinn ($11.Four million), Andre Department ($10 million), Cameron Wake ($9.6 million) and the departed Ndamukong Suh, who’s accountable for $9.1 million in useless cash.

The Dolphins have wasted their Three-Zero begin. They’re in tough tiebreaker form at Four-Four within the AFC, and losses to the Bengals, Colts and Texans will make it powerful to win a head-to-head tiebreaker, although they beat the Titans within the season opener. The excellent news is that they nonetheless have a house recreation towards the Jaguars and a home-and-home with the Payments to come, however even when they win these three video games, their different two matchups are a house recreation towards the Patriots and a street journey to Minnesota. Their victories have come over the Titans (in a recreation damaged up by a number of lightning delays and with an injured Marcus Mariota), Bears (with an injured Khalil Mack), after which a win over the Raiders and two over the Jets. It is asking an excessive amount of of Miami to go Four-1 the remainder of the best way.

FPI playoff possibilities: Four.Zero %

It is tempting to say the Bengals’ season turned on the ultimate two minutes of their recreation with the Steelers in Week 6. The Four-1 Bengals took a 21-20 lead on a Joe Mixon landing with 1:21 left, however a holding penalty on Dre Kirkpatrick prolonged Pittsburgh’s ensuing drive earlier than Antonio Brown introduced in a 31-yard landing with 15 seconds left to additional Pittsburgh’s spell on its divisional rivals. The Bengals misplaced and have gone 1-Four since, together with a 35-20 beatdown by the Browns on Sunday afternoon.

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The extra correct actuality is that the Bengals have reacted to a lopsided schedule. Their victories have come towards the Buccaneers, Dolphins, Falcons, Ravens and a Colts group with a still-limited Andrew Luck in Week 1. It took an 83-yard fumble return on a would-be game-winning drive towards the Colts to seal issues towards Indy. The Bengals scored with seven seconds left to high the Falcons 37-36. They blew a 34-16 lead earlier than Randy Bullock hit a discipline objective on the ultimate play of the sport to clinch Cincinnati’s win over the Bucs. Even at its greatest, this was not a dominant soccer group.

Earlier than Sunday, in the meantime, their losses had come towards far harder competitors. Carolina. Pittsburgh. Kansas Metropolis. New Orleans. The Bengals misplaced their return engagement to the Ravens in Lamar Jackson’s debut, after which Baker Mayfield ripped them aside for 245 yards and three touchdowns within the first half on Sunday.

Rightfully, Cincinnati’s completely absent protection has been the story. Over the previous 5 video games, the Bengals have been permitting Three.Three factors per possession on protection. To place that in context, the league common is 2.1 factors per drive. The second-worst protection within the league over that time-frame has been the Raiders, who’re nearer to the Jets in 19th place than they’re to the Bengals. The Bengals have been permitting 9.Three yards per go try, which is about what Patrick Mahomes and Jared Goff are averaging this season.

You may win with a nasty protection. The Rams rank within the backside 5 in each factors per drive and yards per try over that very same time-frame, however they’ve an excellent offense. The Bengals have not had an excellent offense as soon as A.J. Inexperienced went down. In 2018, Andy Dalton has posted a 96.5 passer ranking and a 71.6 Whole QBR with Inexperienced on the sphere. In 116 dropbacks with Inexperienced on the sidelines, Dalton’s passer ranking has fallen to 72.6 with a Whole QBR of 49.Three. When it comes to the numbers, that is like going from Tom Brady (96.Three passer ranking, 69.Zero QBR) to C.J. Beathard (81.9 ranking, 49.Zero QBR).

Cincinnati is about cooked. Three of its closing 5 video games are on the street, and whereas its residence video games are towards the Broncos and Raiders, the Bengals are going to want to beat both the Chargers or the Steelers away from residence to have a practical shot of constructing the postseason. There simply is not a lot proof that Marvin Lewis’ group has a win over a giant group in it.

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The Steelers make some massive performs, however the Broncos reap the benefits of two interceptions by Ben Roethlisberger and two fumble recoveries to win 24-17.

FPI playoff possibilities: 9.7 %

Two weeks in the past, I discussed that the Broncos have been higher than their Three-6 document and certain to enhance through the second half of the season. I did not count on these developments to happen instantly. The Broncos have saved their season by beating the Chargers and Steelers in consecutive weeks. A group that regarded prefer it may be firing coach Vance Joseph earlier than the season truly has an outdoor shot at making it again to the postseason.

What has modified? To begin, the offense has held onto the soccer. Denver turned the ball over in every of its first 9 video games, however Case Keenum & Co. have not been turned over as soon as throughout this two-game profitable streak. The protection subsequently hasn’t had to face a single drive beginning on Denver’s personal facet of the sphere and simply two drives starting previous the opposing group’s 30-yard line.

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Each these drives got here on Sunday towards the Steelers, and Pittsburgh scored zero factors throughout them. James Conner fumbled away a display on the finish of a giant acquire on the primary drive, and Ben Roethlisberger threw a surprising, game-ending interception into the fingers of nostril deal with Shelby Harris inside the top zone to seal the victory.

It is also life like to notice that the Broncos have been fortunate. Roethlisberger might have had a 550-yard recreation on Sunday if it weren’t for poor throws. The Steelers repeatedly torched Denver’s cornerbacks with double strikes, however Roethlisberger overthrew JuJu Smith-Schuster on one would-be lengthy landing previous Tramaine Brock earlier than hitting him on a double transfer for a 97-yard rating previous Bradley Roby. Later within the recreation, Roethlisberger missed James Washington on the same transfer previous Isaac Yiadom. Final week, Denver beat the Chargers in a recreation by which Los Angeles had a key fumble restoration overturned. The Broncos won by one in a recreation by which Chargers kicker Michael Badgley missed an additional level.

With the win, although, the Broncos unlock the simplest a part of their schedule. It contains three street video games in 4 weeks, however the opponents — the Bengals, 49ers, Browns and Raiders — aren’t scaring anybody. The perfect-case state of affairs for the Broncos is that they keep on a sizzling streak whereas the Chargers battle with out Melvin Gordon upfront of a Week 17 rematch between the 2 in Denver.

Tier II: The enjoyment of six

With 5 AFC groups already north of 90 %, the most probably state of affairs is that one among these three groups will make their manner into the postseason because the sixth seed. Stepping into the playoffs may be sufficient to win one among two rookie coaches a Coach of the Yr nod. Extra pressingly, a playoff berth may additionally be sufficient to save one veteran coach’s job.

FPI playoff possibilities: 20.Four %

Monday evening’s matchup with the Texans may be Tennessee’s final life like shot at profitable the AFC South. They’re coming in with about an Eight % likelihood of profitable the division, however a loss would put Mike Vrabel’s group at 5-6 whereas ceding the tiebreaker it has over the Texans, who would maintain a three-game lead with 5 video games to play. Stranger issues have occurred — the Titans simply beat the Patriots by 24 factors after which misplaced to the Colts by 28 the next week — however the Texans can be comfortably ensconced atop the South with a victory.

Mike Vrabel’s group wants a win on Monday evening to keep alive within the AFC South race. Picture by Joe Robbins/Getty Photos

If the Titans pull off the upset as four-point underdogs, although, issues might get very attention-grabbing. Tennessee can be a recreation behind Houston with the signed-and-sealed head-to-head tiebreaker in its nook. Each groups have straightforward schedules over the rest of the season, however Marcus Mariota & Co. end with 4 residence video games in 5 weeks. The Titans host the Jets, Jaguars, Washington and the Colts, with solely a street journey to the Giants taking them away from Nashville.

The issue, sadly, is that we do not know which Titans group goes to present up from week to week. I wrote about their inconsistencies final Monday, and it is troublesome to rely on Tennessee to win the video games it’s supposed to win towards inferior competitors. It is simpler to think about the Titans slipping on a banana peel towards the Jaguars or Giants than it’s to image them operating the desk.

FPI playoff possibilities: 38.Four %

The Colts obtained away with one Sunday, profitable a sloppy recreation over the Dolphins regardless of turning the ball over thrice. It is tempting to take this as a optimistic signal that the Colts can squeeze out victories with out their greatest stuff, however historical past means that blowout wins over mediocre groups just like the Payments and Titans are far more significant and promising than slim victories over the Fins and Jaguars. Indy has blended victories of each varieties on its five-game profitable streak, though the one severe playoff contender among the many 5 was the Titans.

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Issues get stiffer for Luck and the Colts over the rest of the season, though every of their closing 5 video games are winnable. Indy nonetheless has to play its AFC South brethren on the street, together with a two-game stretch towards the Jaguars and Texans over the following two weeks. Its residence video games are towards the surging Cowboys and the Giants, who characterize the other of surging.

For a skinny, inexperienced group just like the Colts, the trail to the postseason has to embrace staying wholesome. The offensive line actually clicked as soon as left deal with Anthony Castonzo obtained again from damage, however with heart Ryan Kelly out this week, Luck was sacked for the primary time in additional than a month. Marlon Mack left with a concussion, and whereas he averaged 5.7 yards per carry, alternative Nyheim Hines turned his 9 runs right into a mere 28 yards. (To be truthful, he may need been weighed down by T.J. McDonald’s soul after Hines juked McDonald out of his cleats on a 16-yard run.) Defensive Rookie of the Yr candidate Darius Leonard missed 5 snaps after happening on the opening play of the sport Sunday, however one was the 33-yard swing go to Kenyan Drake for a landing.

The Colts haven’t got many stars, and their standouts have to keep on the sphere to hold them buzzing at a playoff stage. Chief amongst them is Luck, who was focused for the second consecutive week as a receiver. After stretching out and narrowly lacking a landing catch final week, Luck leaped for a fourth-and-1 conversion and took a tough shot within the course of. Luck continued the drive and led Indy to a landing, and he is large enough to soak up hits from defensive backs, however that is the soccer equal of selecting up pennies in entrance of a steamroller. Frank Reich has carried out nice work with this offense, however turning Luck right into a receiver in mid-November is just too dangerous, even for a fourth-down conversion or a potential landing.

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Mike Clay explains why fantasy managers ought to sit Tom Brady, begin Josh Adams and add Austin Ekeler is he is accessible.

FPI playoff possibilities: 43.Zero %

For the second week in a row, the Ravens pulled out a victory with Lamar Jackson on the helm over a dismal protection. Final week, Jackson set a quarterback dashing workload document whereas beating the Bengals. This week, the previous Heisman Trophy winner ran the ball solely 11 instances, as an alternative dropping again and throwing 25 passes throughout a 34-17 win over the Raiders. The superior metrics weren’t impressed. Whole QBR, which takes into consideration his influence as a runner, dropped Jackson from a dismal 27.Three mark one week in the past to a good worse determine of 26.7 this week.

Why was QBR so skeptical of Jackson on a day by which the Ravens scored 34 factors? To begin, the Ravens scored on a Terrell Suggs fumble return and a Cyrus Jones punt return, so the offense contributed 20 factors towards one of many league’s worst defenses. Jackson threw two interceptions, together with one ultimately zone, and fumbled on an change, though he recovered the ball. Seventy-four of his 178 passing yards got here on one play, a beautiful bomb to Mark Andrews.

Lamar Jackson has wins in each of his begins, however the Ravens shut the season with 5 powerful video games. Evan Habeeb/USA TODAY Sports activities

I am extra optimistic about Jackson than QBR given some extra context. Each of Jackson’s interceptions have been on tipped passes, so even when I feel Jackson went to the unsuitable place with the soccer, these errors are extra possible to finish with an incompletion as opposed to an interception. He was a transparent menace as a runner even with out carrying the ball often and created operating lanes for Gus Edwards, who carried the ball 23 instances for 118 yards. Jackson additionally had an ideal 48-yard completion to John Brown wiped away by holding on Orlando Brown.

Has Jackson proven sufficient to justify a everlasting position because the beginning quarterback forward of Joe Flacco? It is troublesome to say. The offense we noticed towards the Bengals in Week 11 had a particular shelf life. On Sunday, we noticed a extra balanced assault, however the Ravens averaged 6.Zero yards per play towards a Raiders protection that has allowed greater than that in eight of their 10 different video games this season. It is powerful to think about the Ravens thriving with this offense towards powerful defenses within the postseason.

On the similar time, although, it will hardly be a shock for Jackson to really feel extra comfy in a sustainable offense because the season goes alongside. The Ravens are additionally getting into a two-game stretch by which operating the soccer properly may very well be extraordinarily worthwhile, given that they are about to face the high-powered offenses of the Falcons and Chiefs. In each circumstances, the perfect recreation plan may be to give attention to the run and hold Matt Ryan and Patrick Mahomes off the sphere. If that is the case, Jackson is clearly the higher choice.

Tier III: The 90 percenters

Every of those groups is mainly assured a playoff spot, as their playoff possibilities exceed 90 %. Every have seven wins or extra, however we solely have to return to the 2014 Eagles to discover a group that began Eight-Three and nonetheless managed to miss the postseason. Barring a dramatic collapse, although, these groups are largely battling for January seeding and an outdoor likelihood at a first-round bye.

FPI playoff possibilities: 92.1 %

The Texans aren’t nearly as good as their document. They’ve the Pythagorean expectation of a 5.9-win group, leaving them greater than a full win forward of their underlying stage of play. They’ve performed the league’s sixth-easiest schedule per FPI. They’re on a seven-game profitable streak, however the hardest group they’ve performed over that stretch is the Colts. 4 of these wins have come by a discipline objective or much less, and a fifth was by a landing over the Payments. Their solely comfy victories are over the Jaguars, who benched Blake Bortles, and the Dolphins, who have been beginning Brock Osweiler.

If you happen to’re a Texans fan, I’ve excellent news: None of that’s going to matter, as a result of issues aren’t going to appropriate themselves for some time. Invoice O’Brien’s group already has banked sufficient wins that merely going Three-Three the remainder of the best way ought to assure a postseason berth. The Texans’ schedule truly will get simpler — they’re going through the third-friendliest slate of opponents over the ultimate six video games, together with a three-game homestand towards the Titans, Browns and Colts. Beating the Titans and Colts can be sufficient to clinch the AFC South.

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Darren Woodson and John Fox agree that the Texans will win their eighth straight total vs. the Titans.

A 5-1 end would give the Texans a severe likelihood of a first-round bye, they usually can do this by profitable 4 residence video games towards the Browns and their divisional rivals and beating the Jets on the street. Chances are high that the Texans will at the least lose a kind of seemingly winnable video games, however that state of affairs is hardly implausible.

One delicate issue driving Houston’s turnaround: After years of disastrous performances, the Texans have lastly rotated their particular groups. After rating 26th or worse in particular groups DVOA for six straight seasons from 2012-17, Houston ranked eighth within the NFL heading into Week 12. The distinction between its 2017 and 2018 particular groups has been value about two factors per recreation, which solely seems like quite a bit when you think about that it has won every of its previous two video games by that actual margin.

FPI playoff possibilities: 94.2 %

I’ve to admit: When the Chargers went down 10-Zero to the Cardinals within the first quarter on Sunday, I used to be nervous there may be a hangover impact from an inconsistent efficiency towards the Raiders and a sloppy loss to the Broncos final week. Philip Rivers took care of that. The 36-year-old quarterback performed arguably probably the most environment friendly recreation of his profession, going 28-of-29 passing for 259 yards with three touchdowns earlier than giving manner to Geno Smith. The Cardinals aren’t slouches, both; this was the league’s fifth-best go protection by DVOA heading into the week.

The Chargers took out Rivers, however Anthony Lynn may remorse leaving in Melvin Gordon lengthy sufficient to endure a knee damage. Gordon had to discuss his manner into the lineup and touched the ball 12 instances earlier than taking a success on a reverse and leaving the sport. Early studies recommend Gordon suffered an MCL damage, which ought to price him time however not finish his season.

The Chargers put up 45 factors on the Cardinals and are only a recreation behind the Chiefs within the AFC West. Sean M. Haffey/Getty Photos

I would not have been involved in regards to the Chargers lacking Gordon prior to now, as a result of they have been mainly the identical offense with and with out Gordon within the fold. From 2015-17, the Chargers averaged Three.7 yards per rush with Gordon on the sphere and … Three.7 yards per rush with him on the sidelines. Over that very same time-frame, Rivers posted a passer ranking of 93.Three with the first-round decide within the lineup and a passer ranking of 91.7 with Gordon not on the sphere.

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This 12 months, although, Gordon and the remainder of the Chargers are averaging 5.Four yards per rush with the Wisconsin star on the sphere and Four.Three yards per rush with Gordon sidelined. Rivers’ passing numbers are basically the identical, however Gordon was having his most efficient 12 months by far. Austin Ekeler has rounded into kind as a helpful complementary again, but it surely’s asking quite a bit to count on Ekeler to function an every-down participant.

The timing additionally hurts, because the Chargers are off to Pittsburgh to play an offended Steelers group subsequent Sunday evening. They’re going to have to hope to get Gordon again for a essential Thursday evening recreation towards the Chiefs in Week 15, a recreation the Chargers will realistically have to win to have any shot of internet hosting a playoff recreation come January.

FPI playoff possibilities: 95.5 %

It felt like this type of loss was coming for the Steelers, who had managed to survive a near-loss in time beyond regulation to the Browns, won a recreation they trailed with 1:18 left towards the Bengals, and got here again for a victory towards the Jags in a dramatic goal-to-go scenario final week. Final week, penalties helped the Steelers overcome a James Conner drop to arrange a game-winning rating. This week, they weren’t as fortunate. Conner was stuffed on a run from the 2-yard line earlier than Roethlisberger was picked off on a pop go by nostril deal with Shelby Harris.

The Steelers haven’t got a lot to be nervous about. Their offense generated 527 yards Sunday and left 100 extra on the sphere with drops. Most weeks, that is going to result in additional than 10 factors. (Xavier Grimble, for one, in all probability won’t fumble into the top zone for a touchback once more.) FPI nonetheless thinks they’ve a 91.9 % shot of profitable the AFC North, owing to a assured tiebreaker win over the Ravens. Pittsburgh’s superior divisional document implies that the 6-5 Ravens could have to make up two video games over the ultimate six weeks to surpass the Steelers, which is much harder to pull off and not using a head-to-head matchup on the calendar.

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ESPN Steelers reporter Jeremy Fowler describes the temper within the locker room after turning the ball over Four instances in a 24-17 loss to the Broncos.

The Steelers haven’t got to play the Ravens once more, however their remaining schedule goes to be an issue. Over the following 4 weeks, they host the Chargers, journey to play the Raiders, host the Patriots, after which head to New Orleans to play the Saints. These are three of the eight greatest groups in soccer and the Raiders. Two of the three powerful video games are at residence, however the Patriots have won their previous 5 contests towards the Steelers. The Upshot’s playoff mannequin provides the Steelers a 27 % of claiming a first-round bye. Lose to the Patriots, and people possibilities fall to 6 %.

With the Steelers unlikely to problem the 9-2 Chiefs for a first-round bye given the head-to-head tiebreaker, Mike Tomlin’s group is extra realistically competing for the Three-seed within the AFC with the Texans. The hole between the Chargers (who’re overwhelming favorites to end because the fifth seed) and the vary of potential sixth seeds seems to be extra vital than the cut up between most wild-card groups. There’s actual worth in ending third and avoiding Joey Bosa & Co. within the first spherical. That ought to be Pittsburgh’s objective heading into the postseason.

Tier IV: The locks

It could take an unprecedented collapse for one of many high two seeds within the AFC to miss the postseason. Extra realistically, they’re battling for home-field benefit all through the AFC playoffs.

FPI playoff possibilities: 99.Eight %

The Patriots can clinch the AFC East for the 10th consecutive season — the 15th consecutive marketing campaign with a wholesome Tom Brady, who missed many of the 2008 season — by beating the Dolphins in Week 14. To place this in context, the final quarterback duo to pip a wholesome Brady to the division title was Chad Pennington and Vinny Testaverde in 2002. A win over the Steelers the next week would go away New England in nice form to declare a first-round bye, though the Pats will want the Chiefs to slip up another time to have any likelihood of constructing their tiebreaker benefit rely.

Naturally, Pats followers are aware of the standard story of New England getting off to a gradual begin earlier than discovering its kind and getting unbeatable over the second half of the season. By my rely, that has been the story of seven out of Brady’s first 16 campaigns within the league, together with the 2017 Patriots. The 2018 Patriots additionally would appear set to qualify, provided that they began 1-2 earlier than rolling off a six-game profitable streak.

Rob Gronkowski had three catches for 56 yards and a landing within the win over the Jets. AP Picture/Seth Wenig

Are the Patriots rounding into kind? Is determined by the place you look. The 24-point loss to the Titans in Week 10 does not lend credence to that declare, and the Pats got here out of their bye wanting flat in going to a 10-10 halftime tie with the Jets on Sunday earlier than pulling away after the break. Their defensive backs have not been constant, an issue that nagged the Patriots a 12 months in the past and by no means went away. The Pats are going to play the Chiefs or Steelers within the postseason and find yourself with a mismatch on each snap. The Steelers are a bit simpler, because the Patriots can go together with their common tactic of sticking Stephon Gilmore on JuJu Smith-Schuster whereas doubling Antonio Brown with a secondary cornerback and security assist, however that is not as straightforward towards a Chiefs group that has Travis Kelce and Kareem Hunt.

What’s extra promising, as an alternative, is the offense. Whereas Brady & Co. have not hit the heights their followers perennially count on, they need to be OK for January. After shockingly turning the ball over in every of their first seven video games, the Patriots have not turned the ball over on offense in a month. Over the previous decade, the Pats are 57-Eight within the common season and 5-1 within the postseason once they do not give the ball away.

Extra importantly, each Rob Gronkowski and Sony Michel have re-joined the offense. Gronkowski does not look fairly up to his common velocity, however Belichick had sufficient religion in his star tight finish to play Gronkowski on 66 of the 67 offensive snaps Sunday, and Gronkowski responded with a 34-yard landing catch amongst his seven targets. I wrote final week about how an lively Gronk transforms Brady from Andy Dalton into Aaron Rodgers.

Michel does not harm issues, both. Whereas the first-round decide was bottled up through the Titans recreation, he racked up 133 yards and a landing on 21 carries towards the Jets, and that is not even together with the 41 dashing yards he had referred to as again for penalties. Michel briefly left the sport with a hyperextended again earlier than returning, and whereas Patriots followers may be holding their breath each time he will get the ball and is gradual to stand up, a wholesome Michel has shortly turn out to be an important a part of this offense.

ESPN’s Soccer Energy Index provides the Chiefs a 91.9 % likelihood to win the AFC West. AP Picture/Marcio Jose Sanchez

FPI playoff possibilities: 99.9 %

The Chiefs have not technically clinched a spot but, however they might nonetheless be a possible wild card in the event that they misplaced out. It is not going to occur. They nonetheless have a home-and-home to include the Raiders, and provided that the street recreation is the Andy Reid bye week particular, I do not like Oakland’s probabilities of coming away with a cut up. Sweeping the Raiders and throwing in another victory over the Ravens, Chargers or Seahawks would basically lock up per week off for the Chiefs in January.

The larger image story revolves round Eric Berry. The Chiefs have not had any concept about when Berry may return from the Haglund’s deformity impacting his heel, as evidenced by the truth that they’ve carried their star security on the lively roster all season in lieu of inserting him on the bodily unable to carry out or injured reserve lists. Stories on Friday steered Berry would begin practising this week upfront of a December return.

It could be unfair to count on the All-Professional security to play like his regular self after lacking practically two full seasons with the Haglund’s deformity and a ruptured Achilles, however even a restricted Berry can be a worthwhile addition for the Chiefs. It is truthful to surprise if Kansas Metropolis may be 11-Zero with a wholesome Berry, given what has occurred late in its two losses. The Patriots remoted Rob Gronkowski towards reserve defensive again Josh Shaw for a essential 39-yard catch on the ultimate drive of the sport. Shaw hadn’t performed on protection earlier than the Pats recreation and is not even on the Chiefs’ roster anymore.

Sean McVay went to the identical properly with Gerald Everett final Monday evening. The Chiefs obtained Daniel Sorensen again from injured reserve, who had served as Berry’s alternative a 12 months in the past. Sorensen was an improve on Shaw, however Everett was nonetheless ready to beat Sorensen for the ultimate two Rams touchdowns of the sport. Put Berry in these conditions and we may be taking a look at a Chiefs group chasing historical past proper about now.

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