A thrilling and penalty-aided final drive led by Dan Orlovsky led the Colts past Houston Thursday night and brought the New England Patriots even closer to a first-round bye. The 19-16 win was the second loss in a row for the Texans, who now drop to 10-5. The Patriots, who are currently 11-3, can split their final two games, finish at 12-4 and secure a first-round bye even if the Steelers and Ravens win their last two and finish at 12-4 as well. The reason? The Ravens will win the AFC North thanks to their sweep of the Steelers this season. So even though the Steelers have a head-to-head win over New England this season, the Steelers will be a Wild Card. That would mean the Patriots will be off until January 8 after their season finale. If the Patriots take care of business against Miami this weekend, the bye is secured and still left to be determined would be the No. 1 seed in Week 17. A Patriots win in the finale against Buffalo would take care of all machinations and give them home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs. A split would cause tiebreakers between the Patriots and Ravens to kick in to determine the No. 1 seed. If the Patriots lose twice, they'll be 11-5 and -- while possibly still able to get the bye -- more likely will have to play in the first round depending on what the other teams do. But what's more fascinating to watch is the seeming meltdown going on among the AFC hierarchy as the Steelers, Ravens and Texans are now 0-4 since last Sunday.
Patriots edge closer to bye with Texans loss
December 23, 2011, 4:46 am