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.
When Tom Brady returns to the Patriots following his four-game suspension, his team will be in sole possession of first place in the AFC East.
That became the reality as soon as the Jets fell to the Chiefs in Kansas City on Sunday, 24-3. The Jets committed eight turnovers in the loss to fall to 1-2.
The Bills and Dolphins each won their first games of the season on Sunday, taking down the Cardinals and Browns, respectively.
With the Patriots record at 3-0 following their win over the Texans on Thursday night, and with all three of their AFC East rivals sitting on just one win thus far, even if Bill Belichick's club was to fall to Rex Ryan and the Bills in Week 4, it would still be alone atop the division.
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Surely the Patriots would like to have a zero in the loss column when Brady returns. Regardless, to be in first place when Brady's Deflategate punishment is finished -- and having achieved that mark with two different starting quarterbacks -- has to be a point of pride for the organization . . . and a source of agita for those who doled out the punishment.
Must be Bills week.
After Rex Ryan's club put together an impressive win at home over the Cardinals, 33-18, it wasn't long before the Bills coach was yapping about the Patriots and their coach Bill Belichick.
Ryan was asked about the quarterback situation in New England since both Jimmy Garoppolo and Jacoby Brissett are dealing with injuries at the moment. Who might the Bills see when they visit Gillette Stadium?
"Look, I can sit back and say I don’t care who plays quarterback, cuz I know (Tom) Brady ain’t," he said. "I don’t care who plays quarterback; Steve Grogan can play quarterback. If Belichick’s playing quarterback, we’re coming after him. I promise you that."
There's no indication yet as to whether or not Garoppolo or Brissett will be unavailable for Week 4. When asked about his level of concern when it came to his quarterbacks, Belichick didn't say much during a conference call on Sunday.
Ryan, like the rest of us, will probably have to wait for the Patriots to release an injury report before he learns about the status of either young passer. And until then, he'll have to prepare for both.