Control what you can control.
As for the New England Patriots, the only thing they can control is their own schedule, which continues Sunday at 1 p.m. against the New York Jets at MetLife.
Nobody in Foxboro will say it, but this should be an easy game for the Patriots to win. The Jets are 3-7. That Pats are 7-3. There’s a reason why New England is a 9.5-point favorite on the road. You’d be hard pressed to find anybody who would actually pick New York to win this one.
Both teams are coming off the bye. Both teams are coming off a loss. Though, the Jets have lost four straight, while the Patriots’ loss to the Tennessee Titans in Week 10 snapped a six-game win streak.
That 34-10 loss in Tennessee should provide enough motivation for Tom Brady to run through his next opponent, or perhaps his next six opponents. Because that’s what the Patriots might have to do, if they want a first-round bye in the playoffs.
If those playoffs began today, the Patriots would be the No. 3 seed in the AFC and they’d be hosting the No. 6 seed Baltimore Ravens. Playing in the Wild Card round isn’t ideal, obviously, because it means you have to then go on the road for both the Divisional Round and the AFC Championship, if you even advance that far.
Right behind the Pats are the No. 4 seed Houston Texans at 7-3 and the No. 5 seed Los Angeles Chargers at 7-3. But the Patriots can’t worry about the teams behind them, even if those teams have the same record. All they really need to do is win out.
If the Patriots can do that, then they’ll secure a first-round bye with at least the No. 2 seed. That’s because, if they win out, it’ll mean they’ve defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 15, giving New England the edge over a Pittsburgh team that currently owns the No. 2 seed with a 7-2-1 record. And with the Kansas City Chiefs losing to the Los Angeles Rams on Monday night, winning out would even open the door for the Patriots to sneak into that highly coveted No.1 seed.
Entering Week 12, the Chiefs own that top spot in the AFC with a 9-2 record. In order for the Patriots to get the No. 1 seed, they’ll have to win their final six games and hope that Kansas City loses at least one more.
Which brings us to the remaining schedules. The Chiefs have a bye in Week 12. But after that, they’ll play in Oakland, at home against Baltimore, at home against the Chargers, in Seattle, and then at home against Oakland. If there’s one game I’m circling there, it’s Week 16 in Seattle, against a Seahawks team that will most likely be in must-win mode while battling for an NFC Wild Card spot.
Meanwhile, the Patriots are at the Jets, at home against Minnesota, at Miami, at Pittsburgh, at home against Buffalo, and at home against the Jets. I wouldn’t consider that to be an “easy” schedule, but winning all six of those games is certainly doable, if you’re the Patriots.
Whether winning out gets them the No. 1 seed or not, the Patriots can’t worry about what happens to Kansas City. The Pats already beat the Chiefs back in Week 6, so New England owns that head-to-head tiebreaker and would get the No. 1 seed in the AFC if they both finish the regular season at 13-3. But the Patriots just need to worry about getting to 13-3 themselves.
And I’m just here to tell you that — amidst some negativity in New England after a tough loss to Tennessee — these Patriots can still get a first-round bye, and even, quite possibly, the No. 1 seed, if they just control what they can control.
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