It’s the last Sunday of November and the more we know, the more muddled the NFL playoff picture is starting to look.
The AFC, for example, has 12 teams with a .500 record or better.
The New England Patriots are the league’s hottest team. They have an 8-4 record and won their sixth consecutive game with a convincing 36-13 victory over the Tennessee Titans.
The Patriots took back the lead of AFC East ahead of the Buffalo Bills.
For the Patriots, it was a bend-but-don’t-break approach on defense. They made the plays when they had to on that side of the ball, including an interception by J.C. Jackson in the end zone when the Titans were trying to make it a one-score game in the fourth quarter.
And coach Bill Belichick was thrilled!
“It’s good to beat Tennessee,” Belichick said. “Missed some opportunities in the game but, again, we’re playing a good team. Made some fourth-down stops, two big fourth-down stops on the goal line there.
“It was a good all-around effort. Left some plays out there. But we’ll take it.”
Asked if his team is coming together now, Belichick put it all in perspective.
“Eight games ain’t enough to clinch anything,” Belichick said.
The Titans had held the top seed in the AFC but are reeling now with two consecutive losses and a roster that’s beat up and lacking some of its top players — including, obviously, running back Derrick Henry. So the Titans are looking at and needing their bye week.
The only reason the Titans remain comfortably two games atop the AFC South is because the Indianapolis Colts could not make up any ground on Sunday.
The Colts (6-6) held a first-half lead but lost to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 38-31.
Tampa running back Leonard Fournette, who rushed for 100 yards, scored the winning TD on a 20-yard run with 20 seconds remaining. Fournette scored four touchdowns in the game.
Colts had scoring drives of 75, 90, and 75 yards in the first half and looked very impressive.
Just before the half, holding a 17-14 lead, the Colts set off on their final TD drive of the half that included two big-time third-down conversions and a 4-yard touchdown pass from Carson Wentz to T.Y. Hilton on fourth-and-goal to make it 24-14 at halftime.
The teams were locked in a tight game until 12 minutes to play in the fourth quarter when the Bucs punted and Nyheim Hines muffed it at his own 19-yard line. Scott Miller recovered for Tampa Bay, which extended their lead to 31-24.
The Colts eventually tied it, but Tom Brady got too much time in the end. He handed off expertly to Fournette and threw some masterful check-downs to Fournette on the game-winning drive.
Brady did what he needed to do on that final drive as he did the entire game in which he completed 25 of 34 passes for 226 yards with 1 TD and 1 interception.
The Ravens are the No. 1 seed in the AFC but they have to win tonight against the Cleveland Browns to remain there because a loss by Baltimore would vault New England to that top seed spot.
A loss by the Ravens, incidentally, would put them in a virtual tie with the Cincinnati Bengals for the AFC North lead.
The Bengals completely demolished the Pittsburgh Steelers, 41-10, as Joe Mixon rushed for 165 yards and 2 TDs.
Steelers coach Mike Tomlin had suggested this was an elimination game of sorts for his team because Pittsburgh had already lost a previous game to the Bengals. Well, the Steelers drop to 5-5-1 and are in last place in their division.
By the way, the second-longest win streak in the AFC right now?
The Kansas City Chiefs.
And the Miami Dolphins.
Both have won four consecutive games.
“I would say this is the best we’ve played complimentary football yet,” said Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa after Miami’s 33-10 victory over Carolina.
Follow on Twitter: @ArmandoSalguero