Patriots looking well beyond AFC East

Stevan Ridley and the Patriots kicked the door down at MetLife Stadium last Thursday.

With the win over the Jets on Thanksgiving, the AFC East is essentially locked up for the New England Patriots.
 
But simply winning the division – something that has become an annual tradition for the Patriots – isn’t the goal.
 
The Patriots play for Super Bowls and they’re putting themselves in a good position to make another run at one this year. As the current No. 3 seed in the AFC, though, they can do more.
 
Houston and Baltimore stand in the way of New England’s hopes for a first round bye, but they will have little room for error. New England is a staggering 19-0 in the second half of the season dating back to 2010.
 
With a game in two weeks against the 10-1 Texans on Monday Night Football, there’s a real chance a No. 1 or No. 2 seed will be on the line. Having the head-to-head matchup advantage is like virtually having another win over the other team, because a tied record at the end of the season will go to the winner of the head-to-head.
 
The Texans have been finding ways to win, but it appears that their defense has fallen apart over the last couple weeks. They gave up 37 points to the Jaguars two weeks ago, needing overtime to beat them. On Thanksgiving, they gave up 31 more points to the Lions, again needing overtime to squeak by.
 
Giving up that many points could eventually come back to bite Houston, which must also play the Colts two more times (Week 15 and 17). With Indy in the playoff hunt, they’ll certainly have their hands full.
 
Speaking of head-to-head matchups, the Ravens have the advantage over New England after beating them 31-30 back in Week 3. When the Patriots lost that game, there was talk at the time that it could end up being a huge loss down the road if both teams end up with the same record. It appears as though that fear was warranted.
 
New England will have to bring its ‘A’ game for upcoming matchups against the Texans and 49ers, but Baltimore has no cakewalk schedule either. The Ravens must beat the Steelers, the Redskins on the road, the Broncos, and the Giants if they hope to maintain their advantage over the Patriots.
 
It’s going to be an interesting final few weeks of the regular season.


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