We all know the story by now, the Patriots are 7-3 entering Thanksgiving week, and they certainly have an awful lot to be thankful for.
Rob Gronkowski is returning this week. The offense is relatively healthy. The defense has the potential to get better. And, while he’s not playing top-notch football, Tom Brady is still under center.
New England has six games left, and it’s no doubt they’re scoreboard-watching their competitors as well; the Chiefs and the Steelers. Here’s a look at the Patriots likelihood at snatching a bye, along with the Chiefs and Steelers:
#1 Kansas City Chiefs 9-2 (Bye, @ Oak, v.s Bal, v.s LAC, @ Sea, v.s Oak)
On Monday Night Football, the Rams helped out Patriots and Steelers fans alike, defeating the Chiefs in one of the most exhilarating games in recent memory. While there was little to no defense played whatsoever, it was still a fun shootout to watch between two of the top scoring offenses.
With the bye-week next up on the slate for Mahomes and the boys, they’ll get a chance to prepare for the home stretch. Realistically, Kansas City should win 4 out of their 5 remaining games but, there is potential for a few hiccups. The Chargers won’t roll over easily, as they’re fighting for a playoff spot themselves; and traveling to Seattle where they’re hanging on by a thread will be no easy task, either.
However, a bye is almost imminent for the Chiefs, barring a collapse of epic proportions.
#2 Pittsburgh Steelers 7-2-1 (@ Den, v.s LAC, @ Oak, v.s NE, @ NO, v.s Cin)
Winners of six straight, Pittsburgh has revived their season, and are in prime position to grab a bye and dodge the Patriots in this years’ playoffs.
Or are they?
Pittsburgh’s final six games are anything but cupcakes, as they have to travel to Denver and New Orleans, and host the Chargers and Patriots, who have virtually owned the Steelers the past three seasons or so. Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said he was most pleased with his team’s ability to persevere through all the negativity that’s been swirling around the Steel City.
Pittsburgh currently has the fourth highest scoring offense in football, which is a bit surprising considering the Le’Veon Bell drama. James Connor has filled his shoes and is contributing in a big way out of the backfield along with superstar receivers Antonio Brown and Ju-Ju Smith-Schuster.
Pittsburgh has a relatively tough schedule the rest of the way, and with a matchup still to come with New England on the schedule, a bye is anything but secure for the Steelers.
#3 New England Patriots 7-3 (@ NYJ, v.s Min, @ Mia, @ Pit, v.s Buf, v.s NYJ)
This is a bit of unfamiliar territory for New England, being 7-3 at the bye and having a certain level of uncomfortable negativity angled towards them after a poor showing in week ten down in Nashville.
Although the Patriots are 7-3 and appear to be ‘slipping’, I still like their chances at running the table these next six weeks and clinching a bye, and perhaps even the number one seed. There are still 4 games to come against AFC East opponents, which New England should handle. Granted, going to Miami always seems to pose a problem for the Patriots, it should be a winnable game. When Minnesota comes to town in a couple weeks, I still like New England just because the game is being played in the friendly confines of Gillette Stadium.
Now that brings me to the week 15 matchup with Pittsburgh. This game will likely have similar ramifications to last season, with a first round bye on the line. New England has played well against the Steelers the past few seasons, and this year should be no different, especially if Tom Brady has all of his weapons at his disposal.
Overall, the Chiefs appear destined for a bye, and it’s up to Pittsburgh and New England to dog fight it out until the end to see who can snag the bye. New England surely could use it, having a 41-year old QB and all.
If they can get it, that will surely be something to be thankful for this holiday season.
-Brendan Howe is a Staff Writer for Full Press Coverage Sports Media and covers the New England Patriots. Follow him on Twitter @Brendan__Howe