Patriots don’t play, but get a boost when Colts, Bengals both lose
|11.10.13 at 10:17 pm ET|
The Patriots didn’t play this weekend, but they still managed to have a pretty good Sunday for a few reasons, not the least of which was the fact that two of the teams that they could find themselves jockeying with for playoff seeding (Bengals and Colts) both lost. Meanwhile, a divisional rival (Bills) dropped further behind in the race for the AFC East title.
Here are a few quick notes on the day:
Ravens 20, Bengals 17 (OT): The Bengals dropped their second straight overtime decision on Sunday, losing in the extra session after Ravens kicker Justin Tucker nailed a 46-yarder for the win. Cincinnati was lucky to force OT — Andy Dalton found A.J. Green on a 51-yard Hail Mary late to tie the game. But in the extra session, the Ravens persevered and snapped a three-game losing streak in the process. The Baltimore (4-5) victory prevented the Bengals (6-4) from taking command in the AFC North, and sparked optimism among the Ravens that they might be able to start putting together some momentum for a possible late-season run. As for Cincinnati — which currently holds the No. 4 playoff seed — even though they would have a leg up on the Patriots if there was a tiebreaker based on their Oct. 6 win over New England, the Patriots hold a 1 1/2 -game difference with six games to play when it comes to the chase for the No. 2 playoff seed.
Rams 38, Colts 8: OK, raise your hand if you saw THAT coming. Indy was run out of it’s own building by the occasionally erratic Rams, thanks in large part to the work of St. Louis rookie receiver Tavon Austin, who caught two passes for a remarkable 138 yards and averaged 36 yards on his four punt returns. Indy (6-3) had issues without veteran Reggie Wayne, as Andrew Luck ended up 29-for-47 for 353 yards, one touchdown and three interceptions. As how all of this relates to the Patriots, New England needs keep the Colts in the rearview — Indy is currently No. 3 in the playoff picture, one game ahead of the Bengals and one game behind the Patriots.
Steelers 23, Bills 10: Buffalo got rookie quarterback EJ Manuel back in the lineup, but he was clearly rusty after an extended stretch on the shelf, as Pittsburgh dominated the Bills at Heinz Field. One week after being scalded for 610 yards and 55 points by the Patriots, the Steelers were far more stingy this time around, yielding just 227 total yards (95 rushing yards, which is 50 below Buffalo’s per game average) and 10 points to the Bills. Buffalo, which dropped to 3-7 in the process, went 3-for-14 on third down, while Manuel finished 22-for-39 for 155 yards with one touchdown and one pick. There’s still a lot of football between now and the end of the regular season, but it would be an enormous task for the Bills to just finish the year at .500, let alone make a serious challenge for a playoff spot. (As for the rest of New England’s AFC East foes, the Jets have the weekend off, while the Dolphins meet the Bucs on Monday night in Tampa. For more on the current state of the rapidly developing NFL playoff picture, click here for the latest updates.)
It wasn’t a perfect Sunday for the Patriots, as the Broncos managed to hold off the Chargers in San Diego, 28-20. With head coach John Fox watching at home on television after undergoing heart surgery and Jack Del Rio at the helm, Denver played an impressive contest, showing good complementary skills: Peyton Manning threw for 330 yards and four touchdowns and the Broncos sacked San Diego’s Philip Rivers four times. The win moved Denver to 8-1 on the season. Provided that the Patriots beat the Panthers next week in Carolina and the Broncos beat the Chiefs at home (no small feat, as Kansas City will enter the contest as the last undefeated team in the league), when New England and Denver meet on Nov. 24, the Patriots will come into the game at 8-2 and the Broncos at 9-1.