The Patriots have continued to thrive since the second half began. Sure, they’ve had some flaws. The defense has been worrying me lately. They dropped a home game to Seattle because of it. Their offense had looked a little bit different, more under pressure than usual. They haven’t been throwing to guys like Martellus Bennett. Most of the passes are now going to Julian Edelman and emerging receiver Malcolm Mitchell. Mitchell has been a main factor in the Pats receiving game since the bye. Dion Lewis is now back, creating some depth in the run game, which they’re using to their advantage.
In Week 10 however, Gronk took a serious hit in the head. We later found out that he also took a hit to the lung. He was looking ready to go in Week 13, but doctors found that he had a herniated disc, and needed back surgery. He was out for the season, placed on IR. Last week against the Rams, the Patriots showed that their new offense was still a scoring offense, and that their run game could help contribute to that. The Patriots won the game 26-10. It was a clinic. The Pats shut them out 17-0 in the 1st half, and continued a long streak of wins in a row at home when leading at halftime, despite being outscored in the 2nd half as the Rams attempted at a comeback. With Tavon Austin, they might have had two TDs, but this was a good game. It gives me higher hopes about this Monday night’s game. It gives me higher hopes for the remainder of the year. If the Pats want that home field advantage bad enough, they’ll go out there, win 3 or 4 games, and work hard and do their job through all 4.
Playing Around With The Playoff Machine
There are a lot of what if’s when it comes to the playoffs. Lots of scenarios. Well, by making my best predictions I could of the next 4 weeks, I simulated what in my opinion, is the most likely playoff scenario. The question is, who’s in, and who’s out?
Denver Broncos; 8-4, Projection: 11-5
This Denver offense has been terrible. But they’re 8-4 with one of the best defenses in the league. Their remaining schedule is at the Titans, vs. the Patriots, at the Chiefs and vs. the Raiders. Personally, I think those games are winnable, if they produce on offense. They should win some, and lose some. I think they should come out victorious in at least two. Derek Carr usually struggles against Denver, and the Patriots haven’t won in Denver in a while. They will probably beat two of the three match-ups besides the tough one in KC. That looks like a one way ticket to playoff town.
Pittsburgh Steelers; 7-5; Projection: 9-7
Sure, the Steelers don’t have the greatest remaining schedule. It is okay though, and their only division competitor, the Ravens, have a very tough remaining schedule, so it will be tough for them to match up to Pittsburgh in these last 4 weeks, as Pittsburgh should navigate their schedule decently.
Houston Texans; 6-6; Projection; 9-7
A friend of mine said that he thinks the Texans aren’t winning another game this year. I don’t think so. They are 6-6, but they have an easy remaining schedule. The Colts, Jaguars, Bengals and Titans remain. The Titans could pose a challenge, but I think the Texans will pull a big upset over the Colts this week. Brock Osweiler will lead them to the top of their division, despite a potential loss in Tennessee to tighten the race. By that point it will already be too late. The Texans will have clinched their weak division.
Atlanta Falcons; 7-5; Projection: 10-6
I have been giving the Falcons hate all year, but honestly, let’s face the facts. Their remaining schedule is against the Rams, Niners, Panthers and Saints, some of the worst NFC teams. They should win at least two or three of those games. That should be enough to get past Tampa Bay, who still has a game against Dallas, and can’t count on sweeping New Orleans or Carolina. The Falcons have safer match-ups. They play the 49ers, and the Rams! So they’ve earned themselves a playoff spot, as long as they take advantage of these easily winnable games.
Washington Redskins; 6-5-1; Projection: 9-6-1
The Redskins have what would’ve looked like a tough schedule to end the year, if Carolina and Philly hadn’t completely flopped since. The Giants could also lose to Washington at home. The Redskins can produce on offense, and have a great defense now. I could see them taking advantage of that and squeezing into the playoffs last-minute.
Detroit Lions; 8-4; Projection: 10-6
The Lions have themselves a secure spot as long as they win an easy match-up against the Bears this week, and can beat the Packers. Beating the Packers doesn’t seem like as big a challenge to them as it would’ve in Week 1. It’s a home game, and the Lions are 5-1 at home this year. They also face a now problematic Packers team that isn’t going to be as tough to face. The Lions should win the NFC North and grab their playoff spot.
Buffalo Bills; 6-6; Projection: 10-6
The Bills are only 6-6 for a reason. They have only played 5 home games so far. The rest of their schedule looks somewhat easy. The issue is, they’ve already gotten themselves out of contention by losing 6 games early on and they have tough competition for the wild card with in the AFC. They aren’t beating the Pats out in the division, and they aren’t beating out Oakland and Denver in a tough wild card race.
Baltimore Ravens; 7-5; Projection: 8-8
Like I said before, the Ravens have a really tough schedule for the rest of this year, and with that, it will be hard to beat out a powerful Steelers offensive team for a division title. Although the Bengals are out of it, they have been really good lately and could bring losses to Baltimore and Pittsburgh at home. Baltimore also goes to Pittsburgh, so they’re at a disadvantage.
Green Bay Packers; 6-6; Projection: 9-7
Originally I thought the Packers could still have a shot at the playoffs, and I thought that these struggles were a fluke, but, boy, I was so wrong. The Packers are at the point where they need to win all their remaining games to get to the playoffs. It’s going to be tough for them to get in. They’re not the same team. I think if they can grab a win this week at home, all they need to get
Tampa Bay Buccaneers; 7-5; Projection: 9-7
The Buccaneers have been on fire since their bye, but the remaining schedule could be tough. I’d be shocked if they can beat the Cowboys in Dallas, the team with an 11 game win streak. They also have three divisional games left, one on the road in New Orleans. It’s not just some tough games for them, as their schedule isn’t too bad overall, it’s that the Falcons have one of the easiest remaining schedules.
Minnesota Vikings; 6-6; Projection: 8-8
Minnesota now finds themselves in a tough division. The Lions are flying, and the Packers are still decent, so it’ll be tough for them to get in, especially with the Giants feeling good in that 5th seed. The mediocre schedule doesn’t help, all the teams they face aren’t terrible, and both their road games could go either way. The way their offense has been doing isn’t promising, despite bad D. I think that the Jaguars will even outscore them this week.
Miami Dolphins; 7-5; Projection: 8-8
The Dolphins did look impressive during their winning streak. But that’s over. They got annihilated last week, knocking them out of their system. They now face a tough remaining schedule, with no current momentum. They could continue to collapse and get annihilated, and after the loss, I don’t think the playoffs is happening for them.