The Patriots, who have now won five games in a row, find themselves at 7-4. They still have a long way to nail down a playoff berth in the AFC.
Currently, 12 of the conference’s 16 teams have records at or above .500. Only the Dolphins (3-7), the Jets (2-7), the Jaguars (2-7), and the Texans (1-8) have losing records.
Fortunes can change quickly. The Bengals were 5-2; they’re now 5-4. The Raiders were 5-2, too. They’re also 5-4.
The Patriots have a pair of difficult games coming up, at home against the 8-2 Titans and on the road for a Monday night game against the 6-3 Bills. Lose both, and New England falls to 7-6 and deeper into the game of musical chairs that will eventually have not enough seats for at least five teams that have made it to 5-5 or better through 10 weeks of action.
Win both of the next two, and the Patriots become a potential favorite to secure the No. 1 seed. Wherever, the Patriots land on the playoff tree, having coach Bill Belichick will be a huge factor in advancing.
It’s Pete Rozelle’s vision. More teams alive. More teams viable. More teams potentially in the playoffs. More weeks elapsed before the field is narrowed.
Eventually, it will be. The longer that takes, the better it is for everyone connected to the sport.