While the Patriots will have to wait another day before taking the field for their Week 14 matchup with the Houston Texans, 28 other teams will fill an action-packed NFL Sunday, and there are a few games worth keeping an eye on from a Patriots perspective.
Entering Week 14 play, the Patriots (9-3) own a three-way tie for the second seed in the AFC, with a two-game gap between them and the Texans at 11-1.
The Broncos, also 9-3 entering Week 14, took care of business on the road on Thursday night against Oakland, pushing their record to 10-3, and for the time being they have clutched the second seed pending the results of Week 14.
So here's how the standings line up at the moment.
1. Houston (11-1, clinched playoff berth, at New England, Monday, 8:30)
2. Denver (10-3, clinched AFC West, defeated Oakland 26-13)
3. Baltimore (9-3, at Washington, 1)
4. New England (clinched AFC East. Lose head-to-head tiebreaker with Baltimore because of a Week 3 loss; vs. Houston, Monday 8:30)
5. Indianapolis (8-4, vs. Tennessee, 1)
6. Pittsburgh (7-5, vs. San Diego, 1)
In the mix
7. Cincinnati (7-5, vs. Dallas, 1)
Now some games of note.
Baltimore (9-3) at Washington (6-6), 1. The "Battle of the Beltway" should be one of the best games of the afternoon, as the Ravens will look to hold serve in the AFC standings. A win would push the Ravens closer to a playoff berth, and would also allow them to regain the second seed (pending Monday's result) with a head-to-head tiebreaker over Denver.
Indianapolis (8-4) vs. Tennessee (4-8), 1; Pittsburgh (7-5) vs. San Diego (4-8), 1; Cincinnati (7-5) vs. Dallas (6-6), 1. The scenarios involving each of these AFC playoff contenders is largely the same: Each has a lot of work to do to win a division crown, with a wild card as the more likely scenario. It's never too soon to do some advance scouting for potential wild-card or divisional-round opponents for the Patriots.
Tiebreakers, etc. The bottom line as it relates to the Patriots' playoff position in Week 14 is that while they cannot clinch a top two seed, they can move closer to one with a win on Monday. A win over Houston would keep them locked in at the two seed entering Week 15, with Baltimore and Denver falling in behind them. It's important to remember that while the Patriots hold a tiebreaker edge over Baltimore and Denver in a three-team scenario (and also Denver in a two-team scenario), they do not hold a tiebreaker over Baltimore in a two-team scenario.
The stakes continue to raise each week and much is left to be decided. Should be a fun Sunday.