The New England Patriots headed into their bye week with a sour taste in their mouth after being blown out by the Tennessee Titans in Week 10. With Week 12 now wrapped up, the Patriots feel a little better as they handled business against the New York Jets.
Both teams were coming off their bye, but the Patriots were the ones to take care of business. New England won the game 27-13, an impressive victory on the road and against an AFC East rival to boot.
The Patriots have struggled away from Gillette Stadium this season. Their only wins on the road this season have come against the Buffalo Bills and Jets, two of the worst teams in the league. Their three losses have come against the Detroit Lions, Jacksonville Jaguars and Tennessee Titans.
Of those five teams, only the Titans have any playoff aspirations for this season. Come playoff time, the Patriots will have to defeat much stronger teams if they want to make another deep run in the postseason. One way to avoid those road games come playoff time is to finish atop the conference.
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With the victory against the Jets, the Patriots now have a record of 8-3. They are only one game behind the Kansas City Chiefs, whom the Patriots own the head-to-head tiebreaker over.
Right now, New England is in second place thanks to the Pittsburgh Steelers being upset by the Denver Broncos. As a result, the Patriots now control their own destiny when it comes to the AFC playoff picture.
As long as the Patriots continue winning, they will hold down home field advantage throughout the playoffs. However, New England does have some challenging games remaining on the schedule, starting next week.
In Week 13, the Patriots will be hosting the Minnesota Vikings, who are fighting for their own playoff lives in the NFC. Tough back-to-back road games against the pesky Miami Dolphins and aforementioned Steelers come up the following two weeks. After that, the Patriots wrap things up with home games against the Bills and Jets.
That game against the Steelers is the one that everyone will have circled on their calendars.
The Patriots barely escaped with a victory against the Steelers last season, which set them up for home field advantage in the playoffs. The overturn of Jesse James reception for a touchdown last season would have stood this season.
That game could very well determine who receives the second bye in the AFC along with the Chiefs. Kansas City’s schedule isn’t overly daunting either, with two games against the Oakland Raiders and home games against the Baltimore Ravens and Los Angeles Chargers. A road visit to the improving Seattle Seahawks will be a stiff test for the Chiefs.
There is still a lot of time for things to change in the standings. However, the Patriots have to feel good knowing if they handle their business on the field, they are now in the driver’s seat and control their own destiny.