How Patrick Mahomes' early return for Chiefs impacts Patriots in AFC race

Darren Hartwell

The New England Patriots are in the driver's seat for the AFC's No. 1 seed.

But one team in its rearview mirror may be closer than it appears.

The Kansas City Chiefs announced Friday that star quarterback and reigning NFL MVP Patrick Mahomes is expected to play in their Week 10 game against the Tennessee Titans.

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It's a remarkable recovery for Mahomes, who dislocated his knee in Week 7 was expected to miss anywhere from three to five weeks.

Instead, he'll sit out just two games.

The Chiefs currently are tied with the Houston Texans for fourth place in the AFC behind the 8-1 Patriots, 6-2 Baltimore Ravens and 6-2 Buffalo Bills.

But only two of Kansas City's remaining seven games are against teams with winning records -- one of which is New England.

Here are the Patriots' and Chiefs' remaining schedules:

Patriots: at Philadelphia, vs. Dallas, at Houston, vs. Kansas City, at Cincinnati, vs. Buffalo, vs. New York Jets
Chiefs: at Tennessee, at Los Angeles Chargers, vs. Oakland, at New England, at Chicago, vs. LA Chargers

If New England drops one of its next three games -- all of which are against teams above .500 -- and Mahomes leads Kansas City to three straight wins, then the Chiefs could overtake the Patriots in Week 14 with a win at Gillette Stadium.

That scenario obviously assumes a lot. Mahomes may not be 100 percent upon his return, and he went 5-2 as a starter before going down, so Kansas City isn't unbeatable when he plays.

But Mahomes' return seemingly reduces the Patriots' margin for error, and suggests the defending champions should heed the warning Tom Brady issued Thursday night.

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How Patrick Mahomes' early return for Chiefs impacts Patriots in AFC race originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

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