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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:

What do you think? Leave your comments below.

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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?


Patriots' outlook?

The Patriots moved to 9-3 on Sunday -- but had to eke out a win over Houston.

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How far will the Patriots go this season?

  •  
    5%
  •  
    25%
  •  
    45%
  •  
    8%
  •  
    17%

Discuss (Total votes: 13,828)


Bengals' outlook?

The Bengals topped the host Chargers 17-10, moving them to 8-4 with three home games left.

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How far will the Bengals go this season?

  •  
    41%
  •  
    49%
  •  
    6%
  •  
    1%
  •  
    3%

Discuss (Total votes: 13,118)


Colts' outlook?

Indy hasn't looked great of late but is 8-4 and should cruise to the AFC South title.

SportsNation

How far will the Colts go this season?

  •  
    49%
  •  
    41%
  •  
    6%
  •  
    1%
  •  
    3%

Discuss (Total votes: 13,053)


Last spot?

The Dolphins and Ravens are one game ahead of a four-team pack at 5-7.

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If the top five playoff spots hold in the AFC, which team will earn the sixth?

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    24%
  •  
    54%
  •  
    22%

Discuss (Total votes: 47,344)

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DEN-NE: AFC title preview?

What seemed like a runaway win for the Denver Broncos -- they led 24-0 at halftime -- turned into one of the season's more back-and-forth battles, with the New England Patriots forcing overtime and winning 34-31 thanks to a late muffed punt. New England now is 8-3, the third-best record in the AFC and three games up on their two closest division rivals. Denver (9-2) is tied with Kansas City for the AFC West lead, with those teams facing off in Missouri next Sunday. Will Tom Brady and Peyton Manning meet again with a Super Bowl trip on the line?

Which matchup will we see in the AFC Championship Game?

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    65%
  •  
    35%

Discuss (Total votes: 152,827)

  • Which team would win if these teams met in Denver for the AFC title game?

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      34%
    •  
      66%

    Discuss (Total votes: 44,310)

  • Who was more to blame for the Broncos' muffed punt in overtime?

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      32%
    •  
      68%

    Discuss (Total votes: 79,579)

  • Did Bill Belichick make the right call in taking the wind instead of the ball to start overtime?

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      80%
    •  
      20%

    Discuss (Total votes: 10,044)

  • Which disrupted Peyton Manning (150 passing yards, INT) most Sunday night?

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      10%
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      28%
    •  
      62%

    Discuss (Total votes: 10,104)

  • Which team will win next Sunday's game vs. Denver?

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      11%
    •  
      33%
    •  
      56%

    Discuss (Total votes: 37,782)

  • How many games will the Patriots (8-3) win this season?

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      17%
    •  
      59%
    •  
      24%

    Discuss (Total votes: 9,672)

  • How many games will the Broncos (9-2) win this season?

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      15%
    •  
      61%
    •  
      24%

    Discuss (Total votes: 9,220)

  • Which team will win the AFC West?

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      82%
    •  
      18%

    Discuss (Total votes: 9,210)

  • Which team will win the AFC?

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      60%
    •  
      40%

    Discuss (Total votes: 63,045)

  • What is your pick for Super Bowl champion?

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      29%
    •  
      71%

    Discuss (Total votes: 9,199)

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The controversial ending of the Panthers' win over the Patriots on ESPN's "Monday Night Football" raised questions and eyebrows on Twitter, where football players and athletes from other sports weighed in on the pass interference penalty that wasn't.

Cardinals kicker Jay Feely thought the play, in which Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly appeared to impede Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski's progress, was definitely a penalty.

Free agent punter Chris Kluwe was among those who thought a no-call was the right call.

But then again ...

Baseball has taken steps to apply instant replay more often next season -- a big change in a sport where the umpire traditionally gets the last word, even when the call was incorrect. That mindset seemed to be reflected in many of the MLB player tweets we saw.

There also seemed to be support among MLB players for calling the play a penalty.

The ending was a topic of conversation outside the sports world, too:

Join the conversation and follow us on Twitter @ESPN.

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Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

Just how good are the Panthers?

Another week, another big test passed by the Carolina Panthers. This one came on "Monday Night Football" against the New England Patriots, with Cam Newton leading a late touchdown drive in a dramatic 24-20 win (complete with controversial ending). That gives Ron Rivera's team its sixth straight win, moving it to 7-3 on the year and firmly into playoff position. Will the Panthers be a legitimate threat come playoff time?

  • Are the Panthers legitimate Super Bowl contenders?

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      44%
    •  
      56%

    Discuss (Total votes: 52,642)

  • How far will the Panthers go this season?

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      3%
    •  
      29%
    •  
      41%
    •  
      16%
    •  
      11%

    Discuss (Total votes: 17,446)

  • Which team has a better chance of reaching the Super Bowl?

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      39%
    •  
      61%

    Discuss (Total votes: 127,776)

  • Where does the Panthers' defense rank among the best in the NFL?

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      23%
    •  
      37%
    •  
      40%

    Discuss (Total votes: 16,174)

  • Is Cam Newton an elite quarterback?

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      47%
    •  
      53%

    Discuss (Total votes: 15,762)

  • Should pass interference have been called on the final play of the Patriots-Panthers game on Monday Night Football?

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      55%
    •  
      45%

    Discuss (Total votes: 230,106)

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