Patriots

Patriots vs. Texans Instant Overreactions: Getting back AFC's No. 1 seed will be tough

Patriots vs. Texans Instant Overreactions: Getting back AFC's No. 1 seed will be tough

The New England Patriots suffered more than just a loss Sunday night to the Houston Texans.

The defending Super Bowl champions' 28-22 defeat at NRG Stadium has allowed the Baltimore Ravens to claim the No. 1 seed in the AFC playoff race entering Week 14. Getting it back could prove quite difficult for New England over the last four games of the regular season.

Let's take a look at four instant overreactions from the Patriots' loss and assess their merit.

1. Patriots' offense is a very real problem
Verdict
: Not an overreaction

There's a plethora of issues facing the Patriots on offense right now. Here's a quick list:

  • WRs can't get open
  • Brady's chemistry with the young WRs is not good
  • Establishing the run game has been challenging all season
  • Red zone offense
  • 3rd down
  • Lack of production from tight ends

The Patriots have scored an average of just 18 points per game over the last four weeks, and that's not going to beat many teams, especially when more than two thirds of the league averages 20-plus points per game.

Brady isn't blameless for this mess, either. He's completed just 54.8 percent of his passes for 1,017 yards with five touchdowns and two interceptions over that four-game stretch.

New England's defense has played at an elite level most of the season, but it cannot be relied on to bail out the offense every time it plays a quality opponent. Adjustments need to be made ASAP to get this offense playoff-ready before January.

2. Patriots won't get the No. 1 seed back
Verdict
: Not an overreaction

The Patriots and Ravens have identical 10-2 records entering Week 14, but Baltimore is the No. 1 seed because it owns the head-to-head tiebreaker. The Ravens' Week 9 win over the Patriots could ultimately be the difference in the race for the No. 1 seed because Baltimore has a softer remaining schedule than New England. 

Here's a comparison:
--Patriots: Week 14 vs. Chiefs, Week 15 at Bengals, Week 16 vs. Bills, Week 17 vs. Dolphins
--Ravens: Week 14 at Bills, Week 15 vs. Jets, Week 16 at Browns, Week 17 vs. Steelers

The Patriots probably will need to win out and have the Ravens lose at least one game to regain the top seed. Maybe the Bills give the Ravens fits, but it's hard to see Baltimore losing another game in the regular season given their remaining schedule.

New England has to play a Kansas City Chiefs team in Week 14 that's coming off a dominant 40-9 win over the Oakland Raiders on Sunday. Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes is well-equipped to score against the Patriots' elite defense after putting up 71 points in a pair of losses in 2018. A Week 16 matchup versus the Bills won't be easy, either. Remember: the Bills barely lost to the Patriots 17-10 in Week 4.

The Patriots no longer control their own destiny in the AFC playoff race, and they need an unlikely slip up from the red-hot Ravens to have any chance at homefield advantage throughout the playoffs. Sunday night's snowstorm in New England provided a great reminder of why homefield is important to the Patriots. You'd rather face Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson in these conditions:

3. The Texans exposed the Pats' pass D
Verdict
: Overreaction

The Texans had four passing touchdowns Sunday, matching the number the Patriots had allowed through their first 11 games. It was a great performance by Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson, who also tallied a touchdown reception, but it's only one game. New England's pass defense entered Week 13 giving up the second-fewest passing yards per game, along with the best opposing QB rating. The Patriots defense still leads the league with 20 interception (six more than the next-best team) and a league-low eight passing touchdowns allowed. Veteran cornerback Stephon Gilmore is the leading candidate for Defensive Player of the Year, and the secondary is loaded with exceptional talent, depth and experience. If Mahomes shreds the Patriots secondary next week, the concerns will be valid. But right now, New England's pass defense remains the league's top unit.

4. Texans are a legit AFC contender
Verdict
: Overreaction

The Texans played exceptionally well Sunday night and deserve a lot of credit for beating the Patriots in the manner they did. But let's not get carried away. Houston's only impressive win before Week 13 was a road victory over the Chiefs. This is the same Texans team that has one playoff win over the last six seasons. Houston is still only one game up on the Tennessee Titans for the AFC South lead, and those two division rivals still have two head-to-head matchups remaining. 

We need to see Watson lead the Texans to at least the AFC Divisional Round before we view Houston as a serious contender to win the conference.

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Ravens vs. Bills: Week 14 spread, live stream, playoff picture impact

Ravens vs. Bills: Week 14 spread, live stream, playoff picture impact

The New England Patriots are in two different AFC playoff races -- the fight for the No. 1 seed in the conference and AFC East supremacy -- and Sunday's showdown between the Baltimore Ravens and Buffalo Bills impacts both of those scenarios.

The Ravens look like the best team in the NFL thanks to quarterback Lamar Jackson, who is the betting favorite for NFL MVP. Many football fans and the media have been reluctant to take the Bills seriously so far given their weak schedule. But it's now time to pay close attention to the Bills, whose convincing road win over the Dallas Cowboys on Thanksgiving was quite impressive.

Here's everything Patriots fans need to know about the Ravens vs. Bills Week 14 matchup.

When: Sunday, Dec. 8 at 1 p.m. ET
TV Channel: CBS
Live Stream: FuboTV

Odds (via Westgate SuperBook in Las Vegas)
Spread
: Ravens -6
Over/under: 44

Playoff Picture Impact
The Ravens enter Week 14 as the No. 1 seed in the AFC as a result of their Week 13 win over the San Francisco 49ers, combined with the Patriots' loss to the Houston Texans. The Ravens and Patriots have identical 10-2 records, but Baltimore owns the head-to-head tiebreaker because of its Week 9 victory over New England. The Patriots need the Ravens to lose at least one more time for the defending champs to take back the No. 1 seed and homefield advantage throughout the playoffs. The Bills are the Ravens' toughest test over the final four games of the regular season.

Buffalo is only a game behind New England for first place in the AFC East, which is a surprising scenario this deep into the season. The Patriots currently own the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Bills as a result of their Week 4 win in Buffalo. Therefore, a Patriots loss and a Bills win in Week 14 would still keep New England atop the division, but it likely would also set up a fascinating Week 16 matchup at Gillette Stadium with first place in the division at stake.

A Bills win over the Ravens throws the AFC playoff race into chaos, which would be a pretty exciting scenario for the final three weeks of the season.

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Report: Julian Edelman, Mohamed Sanu expected to play vs. Chiefs

Report: Julian Edelman, Mohamed Sanu expected to play vs. Chiefs

The New England Patriots have been dealing with injuries at the receiver position in recent weeks. But the injuries the team's top pass catchers are dealing with shouldn't keep them out against the Kansas City Chiefs.

According to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport, the Patriots are expected to have both Julian Edelman and Mohamed Sanu available for Sunday's key clash.

This was expected to be the case, but it is good that the Patriots don't have to make any game-time calls with their receivers as they had to in previous weeks with Sanu specifically.

Though Edelman has been battling a shoulder injury in recent weeks that has impacted his catch radius, he has still been Tom Brady's preferred target. In the past two games, he has caught a team-high 14 passes for 119 yards and a touchdown.

As for Sanu, he returned from a one-game absence last week against the Houston Texans but only managed to catch three passes for 14 yards. He'll be looking to do more against the Chiefs as he continues to get further removed from the ankle malady that caused him to miss the game against the Dallas Cowboys.

With Edelman and Sanu likely to play, we can now shift our focus to the team's other four questionable players, a group that includes Jason McCourty and Patrick Chung.

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