Patriots on track for playoff bye

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Patriots on track for playoff bye

The Patriots' defense is dotted with guys who weren't here in August. Their offense doesn't much resemble what we saw at the start of the season. Hands wring. Teeth gnash. And yet, they are currently the No. 2 seed in the AFC playoff race. If you check that handy-dandy link up there, you'll see that NFL.com has all the permutations. Right now, the Pats (7-3) are one-half game behind Baltimore (8-3).
But things look promising for New England. If the Pats win Sunday, they'll go back to the top of the conference because they have a better conference record than Baltimore (6-2 to 5-2). The other 7-3 team in the AFC is Houston, but the Texans are going to be quarterbacked by Matt Leinart now that starter Matt Schaub has gone to IR. Their hold on the AFC South is a two-game edge over Tennessee which, if it overtakes Houston and wins the division, will be hamstrung by four conference losses already (4-4 in the AFC). The Raiders are leading the AFC West and the Patriots have a head-to-head win over them. The fly in the ointment could be the Steelers, who have a head-to-head win over the Patriots. Currently they're 7-3, as well, but they'll have to overtake Baltimore record-wise to win the division because the Ravens beat Pittsburgh twice. Even if Pittsburgh beats out Baltimore, the Patriots will likely get the second seed because they are a division winner. We're forecasting a nosedive from Houston with that scenario. The rumbled-about move for playoff seeding to be done wholly based on record is often broached but hasn't gathered enough steam to be voted on at the NFL Owners Meetings in March. So it's a very real possibility that the Patriots could finish up with a worse recordthan the Steelers -- not to mention that head-to-head loss against them -- and still have Wild Card weekend to rest up while Pittsburgh has to play Houston, Tennessee, Denver or Oakland on the road. Teeth will gnash. Hands will wring.

Merloni: Red Sox have more pitching depth than people think

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Merloni: Red Sox have more pitching depth than people think

Merloni recaps this week of Red Sox spring training.

Farrell: Loss of Ortiz can be made up for with pitching

Farrell: Loss of Ortiz can be made up for with pitching

Lou Merloni, Trenni Kusnierek and John Farrell talk about life without David Ortiz.