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Patriots say only concern is taking care of their business – Sports – Wicked Local

Now three games up in the AFC East and currently holding the second seed in the conference, Patriots players say their lone concern is this afternoon’s game with the Minnesota Vikings at Gillette Stadium. The Patriots take an 8-3 record into the game, which the Vikings, who are battling for a postseason berth in the NFC, are 6-4-1 this year.

FOXBORO – Patriots center David Andrews says his team is stuck between a rock and second place.

“You know what (the current NFL standings and seedings) are. You don’t live under a rock,” the Patriots center said earlier this week. “We all have these phones and everything else that tell you stuff even when you don’t want to know what it is. But the only thing we can control is what we can control, and this week it’s the Minnesota Vikings so anything else is just kind of foolish to look forward to. The only thing that matters this weekend is Sunday at 4 o’clock.”

With the final month of the season upon us, at 8-3 the Patriots hold a commanding three-game lead over the 5-6 Miami Dolphins in the AFC East and are only one game behind the 9-2 Kansas City Chiefs (with the Pats holding the tiebreaker advantage over KC by virtue of their 43-40 win on Oct. 14) in the race for the conference’s top seed.

This weekend has brought the 6-4-1 Vikings to Gillette Stadium for this afternoon’s 4:25 kickoff.

With five games to play in the regular season, here are the seven teams in the best position for the six playoff spots in the AFC, each listed with its won-loss record and remaining strength of schedule in parentheses:

1. Kansas City (9-2; 24-31) – Dec. 2, at Oakland (2-9); Dec. 9, Baltimore (6-5); Dec. 13, Los Angeles Chargers (8-3); Dec. 23, at Seattle (6-5); Dec. 30, Oakland (2-9)

2. Patriots (8-3; 25-28-2) – Dec. 2, Minnesota (6-4-1); Dec. 9, at Miami (5-6); Dec. 16, at Pittsburgh (7-3-1); Dec. 23, Buffalo (4-7); Dec. 30, New York Jets (3-8)

3. Houston (8-3; 21-33-1) – Dec. 2, Cleveland (4-6-1); Dec. 9, Indianapolis (6-5); Dec. 15, at New York Jets (3-8); Dec. 23, at Philadelphia (5-6); Dec. 30, Jacksonville (3-8)

4. Pittsburgh (7-3-1; 33-22) – Dec. 2, Los Angeles Chargers (8-3); Dec. 9, at Oakland (2-9); Dec. 16, New England (8-3); Dec. 23, at New Orleans (10-1); Dec. 30, Cincinnati (5-6)

5. Los Angeles Chargers (8-3; 32-22-1) – Dec. 2, at Pittsburgh (7-3-1); Dec. 9, Cincinnati (5-6); Dec. 13, at Kansas City (9-2); Dec. 22, Baltimore (6-5); Dec. 30, at Denver (5-6)

6. Baltimore (6-5; 29-25-1) – Dec. 2, at Atlanta (4-7); Dec. 9, at Kansas City (9-2); Dec. 16, Tampa Bay (4-7); Dec. 22, at Los Angeles Chargers (8-3); Dec. 30, Cleveland (4-6-1)

7. Indianapolis (6-5; 25-30) – Dec. 2, at Jacksonville (3-8); Dec. 9, at Houston (8-3); Dec. 16, Dallas (6-5); Dec. 23, New York Giants (3-8); Dec. 30, at Tennessee (5-6)

As it stands, the Patriots would enjoy a first-round bye and home-field advantage over seeds 3-through-6 in the AFC, but at the present time the road to the Super Bowl would go through Kansas City. The makeup of that team changed in a major way late Friday night, however, with the release of running back Kareem Hunt, who led the league in rushing as a rookie last year, after a video showing him shoving and kicking a woman in an incident that occurred in February at a Cleveland hotel was released by TMZ. A statement from the Chiefs said that Hunt was being cut because the video showed he had not been truthful in previous discussions with team management regarding the incident.

Although they are tied with the Texans and Chargers at 8-3, the Patriots hold the tiebreaker advantage over Houston by virtue of their 27-20 win in Foxboro in the teams’ season opener back on Sept. 9 and have the upper hand on LA due to the fact that it’s in second place in the West. Because they are in second place, the Chargers slip behind the North division-leading Steelers (7-3-1) to the fifth seed, which is the best a wildcard qualifier can do.

A superior record in the conference (6-3 to 5-4) gives the Ravens the nod over the Colts for the second wildcard spot, the sixth and final seed, at the present time.

The good news for the Patriots is that, thanks to the forever weak AFC East, they have the third-easiest schedule of the seven most serious contenders (although the fact that Tom Brady is 7-9 all-time in Miami where the Pats have lost four of their last five is another matter). The bad news is the Texans, who have won eight straight and are right on their heels, enjoy the easiest schedule the rest of the way and the Chiefs, the team the Patriots are chasing, have the second-easiest.

None of which seems to concern cornerback Jason McCourty, who, after spending his first nine years in the league with Cleveland (eight seasons) and Tennessee (one) is hoping to play in his first postseason game.

“At the end of the day, if you don’t take care of what you have to take care of, it doesn’t really matter what anybody else in the league is doing,” said McCourty. “I think for us, when you start to do that and you’re looking at this, you’re losing focus on what’s in front of you. For us, this week, Minnesota is front of us and that should really be the only thing that we’re looking at or we’re focusing on.”


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