Nov 24, 2013; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski (87) spikes the football after a touchdown during the third quarter against the Denver Broncos at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Stew Milne-USA TODAY Sports
The New England Patriots are coming off their dramatic overtime victory against the Denver Broncos in Foxboro, MA on Sunday night. This win gets the Patriots right back in the race for home field advantage in the playoffs. With a head-to-head win versus Denver, the Patriots face the weaker part of the schedule as they come down the home stretch of the season. With eleven games played, the bye week, and five left to play the Patriots are getting a better feel for the team as they ready to finish the 2013 regular season on a high note. Here are four factors to focus on after the Patriots big win.
AFC PLAYOFF PICTURE:
The Patriots finish up the season with games at Houston to take on the struggling Texans followed by hosting the Cleveland Browns. They go on the road for matchups against the Dolphins and Ravens, but neither of those games look as tough as they appeared in preseason. Like the Texans, these two squads had high hopes early on and have struggled with various issues. The Patriots host Buffalo in the finale. As of right now, the five teams left on the schedule have a combined 20 wins and 35 losses.
In the race for homefield advantage, both Kansas City and Indianapolis are stumbling in the past few weeks. The Colts were blown out by Arizona and Kansas City gave up 41 points to San Diego in their second consecutive loss after starting 9-0. With injuries affecting both squads, they look like they are going to have to step up just to keep their playoff positions.
Cincinnati, after defeating the Patriots earlier in the season, are also having some issues. The Bengals had their bye at just the right time, as although they defeated Cleveland before the break, they hardly looked like a team with an offense that could keep up with the big boys. With Pro Bowl defensive tackle Geno Atkins sidelined for the season, the defense has not been the same without their best player. With a game in hand and an easy schedule the rest of the way, the Patriots should keep their lead over Cincinnati down the stretch. The Bengals face the Chargers, Colts, and Steelers in the next three weeks that should show a lot about how the Bengals line up for the playoffs.
The Patriots made a couple of end-of-the-roster moves yesterday by releasing defensive tackle Marcus Forston and signing tight end D.J. Williams. In addition, practice squad defensive tackle A.J. Francis was signed away by the Miami Dolphins to their active roster. Along with these moves, the Patriots released recently promoted cornerback Justin Green, who made his debut playing eight snaps on Sunday night.
With his release, it indicates what a waste of natural talent defensive tackle Marcus Forston turned out to be. Released earlier today, the massive defensive tackle was supposed to be a “steal” as an undrafted free agent last season. He came to New England from the University of Miami where he initially looked like a future first round draft pick after he had a huge season as a freshman.
Injuries and indifference caused the talented tackle to drop out of the NFL draft. Foston initially looked like a potential diamond in the rough just needing motivation from coach Bill Belichick and Miami alumni Vince Wilfork to bring out his athletic gifts. Instead, Forston was beat out this year by Joe Vellano and Chris Jones. It looks like the end of the NFL road for Forston, because if he cannot make it on this defensive tackle needy squad, he is unlikely to make it anywhere.