SportsNation Blog Archives New England Patriots
Ravens change playoff picture?
Six Justin Tucker field goals -- including a 61-yarder with 38 seconds left -- were all the Baltimore Ravens needed on "Monday Night Football" to throw three playoff races for a loop. By beating the Detroit Lions 18-16, Baltimore moved to 8-6 and within one game of the Cincinnati Bengals atop the AFC North. By losing, Detroit fell to 7-7 and a surprising third in an NFC North Division it recently controlled. And then there's the AFC wild-card race, which still features three strong candidates -- four if you count Cincinnati -- fighting for one last spot. How will it all shake out?
pollcenter:category=4819+ravenschangeplayoffpicture?AP Photo/Lynne Sladky
Should Patriots fans be worried?
That 10-4 record is far from bad, but peel away the layers and things look a little murkier for the New England Patriots. Two weeks ago, they needed a comeback to beat the lowly Houston Texans. A week ago, they needed to rally to top the Cleveland Browns. Sunday it finally caught up to them, as the Miami Dolphins held off Tom Brady's late charge to win 24-20. Now, the Patriots very likely are playoff-bound. But will this team make any noise when it gets there?
Gronkowski tears ACL, MCL
The Patriots are a different (read: worse) team without Rob Gronkowski, so the news that he's out for the season after tearing his ACL and MCL must put a damper on their third consecutive comeback win. Gronkowski was hit in the knee by Browns safety T.J. Ward after catching a pass from Tom Brady, and he had to be carted off the field. The news couldn't be much worse for the Patriots, who've won their past three games only by the slimmest of margins and have already suffered devastating injuries to stalwarts like Vince Wilfork and Jerod Mayo. Though Brady thinks the team will adapt, it's hard to see how New England can make another Super Bowl run without their best pass-catcher.
Bill Belichick is renowned for his ability to adjust at halftime, but his involvement in the Spygate scandal means he'll never quite be above suspicion. That's the case after the Patriots' 34-31 win over the Texans on Sunday. Texans defensive end Antonio Smith raised questions about the Patriots' hot start in the second half after their struggles in the first, saying that it'd be a ''big coincidence if that just happened by chance.'' Patriots quarterback Tom Brady dismissed Smith's comments, but are they more than just sour grapes?
Here's a sampling of what readers had to say in our Facebook conversation on the story:
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While the Denver Broncos were taking control of the AFC West against the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday, the other three top AFC contenders took care of business to extend their leads atop their respective divisions. And although none has officially clinched, the Cincinnati Bengals (two games up), New England Patriots (three) and Indianapolis Colts (also three) seem destined to host playoff contests come January.
Elsewhere, the Miami Dolphins moved to .500 by hammering the New York Jets, while the Baltimore Ravens looked on after beating the rival Pittsburgh Steelers on Thanksgiving. Which wild-card contender will taste the postseason? How will the division leaders fare?
The Patriots moved to 9-3 on Sunday -- but had to eke out a win over Houston.
The Bengals topped the host Chargers 17-10, moving them to 8-4 with three home games left.
Indy hasn't looked great of late but is 8-4 and should cruise to the AFC South title.
The Dolphins and Ravens are one game ahead of a four-team pack at 5-7.