How annoying, the Pats win even when they lose
1. Patriots (10-3) … Still the one.
2. Steelers (11-2) … Must solidify LBs
3. Eagles (10-3) … Should still get home field.
4. Vikings (10-3) … Won’t play in home Super Bowl.
5. Panthers (9-4) … Just to hack off the Falcons.
1. Browns (0-13) … Snatching defeat from jaws of victory.
2. Giants (2-11) … Welcome back, Eli.
3. Colts (3-10) … Big game vs. Broncos.
4. Broncos (4-9) … Big game vs. Colts.
5. 49ers (3-10) … Playing their way off this list.
We are officially in the slog portion of the NFL season.
Even for the favorites, everything is getting hard.
The Patriots lost to the Dolphins last week. The Steelers barely beat the Ravens. The Eagles may have topped the Rams, but they lost with the injury of quarterback Carson Wentz.
But, hey, the Broncos beat the Jets. Isn’t it fun when your team starts winning meaningless games, just in time to screw up your draft position? Ahem, San Francisco 49ers.
Along those lines, Cleveland led Green Bay, 21-7, and still managed to lose? It’s hard to tell if the 0-13 Browns are trying or tanking.
Did the Pats win last week?
Hang with me, but they did. Of course, they lost to the Dolphins in Florida during “Monday Night Football” because games in Miami tend to be the games New England loses annually.
But look around the league. Pittsburgh beat Baltimore, 39-38, and the Steelers host the Patriots this weekend in the Biggest Game in the History of the NFL … Until the Next One. Yet, if the Ravens can put up 38 on Pittsburgh, then what’s New England going to do?
Of course, we all want Pittsburgh linebacker Ryan Shazier to recover, but, facts are facts. The Steelers miss him. That’s an injury that may knock them from the NFL’s elite.
Meanwhile, Wentz is done for the season in Philly. Nick Foles is a good backup quarterback as far as backup QBs go. It’s not like the Eagles are going to Brock Osweiler.
But … the Eagles seem mortal sans Wentz.
The Eagles have become the Vikings with Foles — good defense, good running game and quarterback who has to play out of his mind (Case Keenum) to be elite.
By the way, the Vikings lost to the Panthers last week, not a bad loss, but it folds into the theme.
Who scares the New England Patriots?
Not the Steelers’ defense. Not the Eagles or the Vikings. Anybody? Anybody? Bueller?
AFC West watch
Remember in the beginning of the season when the AFC West looked loaded with the Broncos, Raiders and Chiefs?
Remember when the Chiefs looked like one of the best teams in football?
Yeah, all that happened in three months.
As far as the Chiefs go, Alex Smith returned to being Alex Smith, which should be kind of predictable given the author likes the Niners. What is weird is the Los Angeles (?) Chargers are tied for first in this once mighty division with K.C.
The winner of Saturday’s game — Chargers at Chiefs — likely wins the AFC West. And if the Chargers win, then could they sell out a playoff game with actually people rooting for the Bolts?
In other AFC news, we’re looking at the Ravens for one wild card — Baltimore has the Browns, Colts and Bengals left — and the Jaguars/Titans non-AFC South winner.
Going back to the whole Pats thing, you think Bill Belichick is up nights worrying about Marcus Mariota or Blake Bortles?
The Eagles and Vikings will be in the playoffs out of the NFC. They just don’t scare anyone with their quarterbacks.
We’ve got Rams at Seahawks this week, which could be the changing of the guard in the NFC West if Los Angeles can win. (By the way, does anyone in L.A. realize there could be two playoff teams from SoCal?)
Are there two teams in third place in their respective divisions the teams to watch?
There will be great hullabaloo as Aaron Rodgers returns to the Packers this week, but I don’t know if 10-6 will be enough, even if Green Bay runs the table.
The Falcons are quietly 8-5 and control their own destiny in the NFC South.
Enjoy the slog, and on to Week 15.
Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 970-748-2934, firstname.lastname@example.org and @cfreud.
Rita’s two closest peers have climbed the 8,850-meter (29,035-foot) peak 21 times each, but both of them have retired from mountain climbing.