What Patriots fans should watch for in Week 13


It's Week 13 and the playoff race is as close as any in recent years. Here are the games Patriots fans should be paying attention to -- other than the one in Foxboro, of course -- today:


Browns at Texans: Houston is neck-and-neck with New England -- both have identical 8-3 records -- but the Pats beat the Texans on Opening Day so they hold the advantage . . . and at the moment, that means holding the No. 2 seed and the first-round bye. The Pats no doubt would breath easier if Houston loses one or two from here on in, but as well as the Browns have been playing, by Browns standards, it's unlikely they're going to go to Houston and pull off an upset. Still, Patriots fans can hope.

Bills at Dolphins: If you're actually worried about the AFC East "race," this game means something as a Buffalo victory would all but clinch it for the Pats.

Colts at Jaguars: No direct New England impact, but keep your eyes on Indianapolis; the Colts are charging hard from the back of the pack. And Jacksonville's disintegration -- especially in light of their crowing after the Week 2 victory over the Pats, which they treated like a Super Bowl victory -- continues to be an ongoing delight.

4:05 P.M. GAME

Chiefs at Raiders: The eyes of the football-viewing nation will be here as we all look to see how the Chiefs respond to the Kareem Hunt situation. Oakland would seem to be as soft a landing spot as there is -- the Raiders are 2-9 and in disarray of their own, though for different reasons -- and this is a game Kansas City (9-2) needs to hold New England at bay in the battle for the No. 1 seed in the AFC playoffs.


Chargers at Steelers: Who do you root for here? The Chargers are 8-3, same as the Pats, and could take the lead in the AFC West if the Chiefs falter. (Not today, since Kansas City currently holds the tiebreaker over Los Angeles, but the teams meet again in a week-and-a-half.)  In the convoluted NFL tiebreaking system, who knows who'll hold the tiebreaking edge between the Patriots and Chargers since they won't meet head-to-head? The Steelers, meanwhile, are 7-3-1 and could overtake New England with a victory in their meeting in Pittsburgh in two weeks. The best news for the Patriots: One of them will come out of this in worse shape than they are now.

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