Ravens lose again, Patriots eye a top seed


There’s really nothing quite like football in December.

The hitting gets harder, the intensity is raised higher than the light stanchions – and every play is significant in the quest to make “The Tournament”.

The New England Patriots entered Sunday with a 9-3 record, which will stay intact since they don’t square off against the 11-1 Houston Texans until tomorrow night – but that doesn’t mean that the games played today do not impact the Patriots, quite the opposite in fact.

Though the Baltimore Ravens game at Washington was the only game with direct impact on New England, there were several games for which the outcome could come into play depending on the results of tomorrow night’s game.

And the events of today make tomorrow night’s game just that much more compelling.

The Redskins 31-28 win in overtime over the Baltimore Ravens helps the Patriots control their own destiny in their quest for a top seed in the AFC. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Of course, if the Patriots just take care of their own business and win out against Houston, San Francisco , Jacksonville and Miami, they will have earned a top 2 finish and a first round bye.  If not, these games played today become impactful down the stretch:

Cleveland 30 Kansas City 7: The Browns are 5-3 in the last 8 games and have won three straight.  There is nothing they are really doing exceptionally other than just playing hard.  Nothing comes easy for the Browns, but lately nothing is coming easy for their opponents, either.  So what looked like a cakewalk for the Broncos at midseason, their meeting with Cleveland in Denver has the look of a tougher game than the Broncos would want for the second to last game of the season…

Minnesota 21 Chicago 14: Right, we understand that the Vikings are in the NFC, but they are a potential bump in the road to the AFC leading Houston Texans when the two meet up two weeks from today in Houston.  Today’s win gives the Vikings a 7-6 record and keeps them right in the thick of the wildcard race in the NFC – which makes them very motivated.

Indianapolis 27 Tennessee 23: The Colts are never out of a game lately, and they may be the scariest team that no one is really talking about in regard to playoff seeding – but it’s time to include them.  At 9-4 and with a ton of momentum, the Houston Texans should be plenty concerned about the Colts, particularly if they can’t go into Foxboro tomorrow night and beat the Patriots – and that makes Monday night’s game all the more compelling for them.

Should the Texans lose to New England, they are staring down a finishing schedule of Indianapolis next week, a motivated Vikings squad the following week and a closing day showdown with the Colts in Indianapolis – so the Colts still have a small window of opportunity for the division crown and a 1st round bye…very small, but a chance nonetheless.

Washington 31 Baltimore 28: Baltimore falls to 9-4, having lost consecutive games, and fall a full game behind the Denver Broncos and a half a game behind the Patriots going into tomorrow night…and they’ve got the Broncos on deck in Baltimore next Sunday, which is a must win for the Ravens if they expect to have a Top 2 seed and a 1st round bye.

A loss to Denver would eliminate them from any possibility of a top 2 seed – and then they have the Giants coming to town the next week, then go to Cincinnati for the season finale…to repeat, a win next week against the Broncos is a must.

Should the Patriots win tomorrow night, the playoff picture would look thus:

1. Houston 11-2

2. New England 10-3

3. Denver 10-3

4. Baltimore 9-4

5. Indianapolis 9-4

6. Pittsburgh 7-6

Should the Patriots lose:

1. Houston 12-1

2. Denver 10-3

3. New England 9-4

4. Baltimore 9-4

5. Indianapolis 9-4

6. Pittsburgh 7-6

There is no question that the Texans / Patriots matchup tomorrow night is a huge game for both teams, but what else would you expect for December football in the NFL?