New England Patriots: Eye on the Competition: the AFC Contenders in Week 14

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Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

The New England Patriots defeated the Houston Texans 27-6 in front of a national audience on NBC’s Sunday Night Football at NRG Stadium in Houston, TX. Of course, New England had already won earlier in the day as both the Cincinnati Bengals and Denver Broncos lost allowing the Patriots to leapfrog the two teams and stake claim to the number one overall seed in the AFC.

AFC Power Rankings Week 15: Pats back on top

The Patriots took care of business against the Texans jumping out to a two touchdown lead for the third straight week. However, after special teams breakdowns (Chris Harper fumbled punt return in Denver; take your pick of the doofus drop-kick, punt block for touchdown, or punt return for a touchdown against Philadelphia) swung momentum and doomed the Patriots, this week the defense stepped up and stopped Houston on fourth down to stymie the home team.

Of course, it would not be a Patriots game without significant injuries. Starting running back LeGarrette Blount exited midway through the second quarter with a hip injury after getting his heaviest workload of the season. On defense New England saw backup linebacker Jonathan Freeny–starting in place of injured Dont’a Hightower–leave with a hand injury early in the first quarter, defensive tackle Dominique Easley leave with a left thigh injury, and Devin McCourty left with an ankle injury.

For the Patriots there was good news on Monday as the x-rays of Freeny’s hand was negative, and McCourty is expected back for the playoffs with just a sprain. The status of Easley and Blount is still unknown but Easley was seen on a stationary bike during the game and may not have a serious injury.

However, the news on the injury front was bad for the AFC North leading Cincinnati Bengals as they not only lost the game but their starting quarterback as well. Let’s start with the Bengals as we take another look at how the top contenders in the AFC did in week 14 of the 2015 NFL season and most importantly how it impacts the New England Patriots.