Suddenly, the New England Patriots find themselves in a position to battle for the top seed in the AFC.
The Patriots improved to 7-4 on the season with their Thursday Night Football victory over the Atlanta Falcons. The win vaulted them to the top of the AFC East with the Buffalo Bills' loss to the Indianapolis Colts. The only AFC teams with better records than New England heading into Week 12 are the 8-3 Tennessee Titans, who just lost to the lowly Houston Texans, and the 7-3 Baltimore Ravens.
So, with six weeks remaining in the regular season, which AFC teams are "dead"? Which teams are just "sleeping"? Tom E. Curran and Phil Perry separated the contenders from the pretenders on a brand new episode of the Patriots Talk Podcast.
First up, the Patriots' Week 12 opponent: the Titans.
"I think they're dead," Perry said. "I just think offensively they have lost their identity. When they lost Derrick Henry, that killed who they were as an offensive football team. I think the defense is still very good, and I think Mike Vrabel is a very good coach. And so, they should have enough to win some games down the stretch, I just think if we're talking about real contenders they don't have enough."
How about the Bills?
"I'm gonna say the Buffalo Bills are dead," Perry said. "They are a team that wants to be the greatest show on turf. They have invested in an incredible way at the receiver position. They're paying their quarterback. They're letting him run around and try to be the backyard schoolyard type of player he proved he could be at a very high level last year. But they can't run the ball. That usually doesn't make or break you, but you have to at least have that club in your bag."
And then, of course, there's Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs.
"I think they were sleeping and they are now starting to wake up," said Perry. "I think it's the extent to which they do eventually become awake that will really dictate how far they're able to go. Like, are they just rubbing their eyes and are they sort of sleepwalking like it's 2 a.m. and they're looking for a glass of water, or are they up and ready to start their day? ... I think they're gonna get there eventually, but they're not there yet. And it's their offense, which is pretty shocking to me. Their defense has been good."
Also discussed in this episode: Curran vs. Perry: Should Thanksgiving food takes be canceled? Would Josh McDaniels take the Bears job? If so, who would replace him? And will the Patriots’ balance make them the most deadly in the playoffs?