The Patriots are one of six teams to have a bye this week, but Week 10 in the NFL should still be interesting for the club and its fans.
At 8-1, the Patriots still have the best record in the AFC despite Sunday night’s loss. Only six other teams are above .500: the Bills and Ravens are 6-2, the Texans and Chiefs are 6-3, the Colts are 5-3, and the Raiders are 5-4 after Thursday’s win over the Chargers. But Baltimore’s win gives it the edge in home-field advantage for the playoffs if the Ravens and Patriots finish with the same record because head-to-head is the first tiebreaker. Just don’t expect the Patriots to get much separation this week because Baltimore will face the only winless team remaining in the NFL when it takes on the Bengals on Sunday at Cincinnati.
The Bills are also hitting the road with the hopes of gaining ground on the Patriots. They’ll face a 2-6 Cleveland Browns squad that has lost four in a row and appears to be headed in the wrong direction despite a talented roster.
Other storylines to keep an eye on while you’re not watching the Patriots:
■ As it stands, the Chiefs would not have a bye heading into the playoffs and would be the No. 4 seed. After losing three of their last four, Kansas City defeated the Minnesota Vikings, 26-23 last week with Matt Moore at quarterback. The Chiefs are on the road this week at the 4-5 Titans. Young star quarterback Patrick Mahomes has been getting an increased workload in practice and hopes to play at Tennessee for the first time since he injured his knee Oct. 17. That game will be televised in the Boston area on CBS.
A Kansas City win would keep the Chiefs in contention for the best record in the AFC, with an eye toward making up ground ahead of their trip to Gillette Stadium in Week 13.
■ A disappointing loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers knocked the Colts out of first place in the AFC South. They’ll host the Dolphins, who are coming off their first win of the season, on Sunday. Quarterback Jacoby Brissette was injured against the Steelers and has been limited in practice this week. If he can’t go, it will be another former backup to Tom Brady – Brian Hoyer – quarterbacking Indianapolis. A win would pull the Colts into a tie with the idle Texans for first place in their division.
■ Two teams currently on the outside looking in when it comes to the playoffs will meet in the 4:25 p.m. game on Fox on Sunday, as the 5-3 Los Angeles Rams take on the 4-4 Steelers in Pittsburgh. The defending NFC champs are in third place in the NFC West, and a half-game out of the last wild-card spot. The Steelers are two games behind the Ravens in the AFC North, one game behind the Colts for the last AFC wild-card spot.
■ The Sunday night game is a pivotal NFC battle featuring two teams looking to hold on to their playoff positioning. The 5-3 Cowboys host the 6-3 Vikings on NBC at 8:20 p.m. Since losing to the Jets two weeks ago, Dallas has won two in a row to maintain a half-game lead over the Philadelphia Eagles in the NFC East. Minnesota’s loss to the Chiefs prevented them from pulling into a tie with the Packers atop the NFC North. The Patriots host the Cowboys on Nov. 24.
■ Week 10 wraps up with a battle in the NFC West, with the 7-2 Seattle Seahawks taking on the only remaining undefeated team in the league, the 8-0 San Francisco 49ers. Not only could the winner of this game end up in the Super Bowl, but Patriots fans will be interested to see how Jimmy Garoppolo fares against the Seattle defense. When the Seahawks have the ball, Russell Wilson will have a pair of former Patriots to throw to in wide receiver Josh Gordon and tight end Jacob Hollister, who was carried off the field on his teammates’ shoulders after scoring the winning touchdown in last week’s overtime win against Tampa Bay.
Yes, it can be disappointing to not have your team playing this weekend. But you can get through this, Patriots fans. And remember, Bill Belichick is 14-5 when coming off a bye as Patriots coach. There might not be an advantage this time around, because their next opponent, the Eagles, will also be coming off a bye, and they fared pretty well the last time the two teams faced each other with an extra week to prepare in Super Bowl LII.