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www.officialpatriotslockerroom.com
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The 2018 NFL regular season is halfway over and the New England Patriots are one game out of first place in the AFC. Despite holding the head-to-head tiebreaker Authentic Chris Hogan Jersey Salute to Service , the (7-2) Patriots trail the (8-1) Kansas City Chiefs and will need some help if they are to claim much-needed homefield advantage in the playoffs.The Patriots remaining schedule isn’t too daunting. They have two games against the (3-6) New York Jets, one against the (2-7) Buffalo Bills, and one against the hapless (5-4) Miami Dolphins. They also have games against the (5-2-1) Pittsburgh Steelers and (5-3-1) Minnesota Vikings. In total, the Patriots remaining schedule has a combined record of 23-28-2 (0.451).It wouldn’t be surprising to see the Patriots win out, although a 5-1 or 4-2 record is a more likely outcome.The Chiefs get a pair of games against the cellar-dwelling (1-7) Oakland Raiders and one against the (2-6) Arizona Cardinals, but the remainder of their games aren’t easy. They’re on the road against the (8-1) Los Angeles Rams in week 11, host the (4-5) Baltimore Ravens and (6-2) Los Angeles Chargers, and go on the road to play the (4-4) Seattle Seahawks.The combined record of Kansas City’s opponents is 26-31 (0.456), but games against the Rams and Chargers are harder than anything the Patriots have scheduled, and the Seahawks are always tough at home. Can the Patriots pick up a game on the Chiefs? In my mind, New England can only afford to lose one game over the rest of the year and still expect to get homefield advantage.And do the Patriots have to worry about any other team in the AFC other than the Chiefs?The Pittsburgh Steelers have an absurd remaining schedule: Panthers, at Jaguars, at Broncos, Chargers, at Raiders (lol) Authentic Patrick Chung Jersey , Patriots, at Saints, and Bengals. Four of those teams should make the playoffs and two other road games- Jaguars and Broncos- won’t be easy. Pittsburgh could easily pick up a loss or four over the coming weeks.As for the Houston Texans, the Patriots fortunately already hold the head-to-head tiebreaker, creating an effective two-game lead. Houston only has two games remaining against teams at .500 or better: (5-3) Washington and the (4-4) Philadelphia Eagles. Houston could very well win out, but so long as the Patriots go 4-2 or better, New England will stay ahead in the rankings.The current wild card teams- Los Angeles Chargers and Cincinnati Bengals- have tough roads ahead of them, too. The Chargers will have to leapfrog the Chiefs while playing at Steelers, vs Bengals, and at Chiefs consecutively in weeks 13-15. The Bengals have to play the Saints, Chargers, and Steelers. It’s unlikely either team will emerge ahead of New England.So the road is bright for the Patriots to get homefield advantage, even if they’re not yet in the driver’s seat. Let’s see if Bill Belichick and company can navigate the rest of the season and clinch the top seed in the playoffs.AFC1. (8-1) Kansas City Chiefs2. (7-2) New England Patriots3. (5-2-1) Pittsburgh Steelers4. (6-3) Houston Texans5. (6-2) Los Angeles Chargers6. (5-3) Cincinnati BengalsIn the hunt: (5-4) Miami Dolphins; (4-4) Tennessee Titans; (4-5) Baltimore RavensNFC1. (8-1) Los Angeles Rams2. (7-1) New Orleans Saints3. (5-3) Chicago Bears4. (5-3) Washington5. (6-2) Carolina Panthers6. (5-3-1) Minnesota VikingsIn the hunt: (4-4) Atlanta Falcons; (4-4) Seattle Seahawks; (4-4) Philadelphia Eagles; (3-4-1) Green Bay Packers Nate Orchard has gone from a highly drafted pick of the Cleveland Browns to a featured star on HBO's documentary series "Hard Knocks" to the couch as an unemployed linebacker in the NFL.Now, he's suiting up for a team with Super Bowl aspirations.Maybe even the Super Bowl favorites.Orchard signed with the Kansas City Chiefs on Wednesday to shore up their pass rush besieged by injuries. Justin Houston could miss several weeks after hurting his hamstring in last Sunday's win over Jacksonville while Dee Ford and Tanoh Kpassagnon have been dealing with nagging injuries."It was a nice time to be with my family," Orchard said while standing in a mostly empty Chiefs locker room Wednesday Derek Rivers Jersey Salute to Service , "but I'm very fortunate to be here with the record they have."The Chiefs (5-0) have become the trendy pick to win the AFC after routing the Jaguars last week, and they can validate those hopes with a win Sunday in New England. But winning on the road against Tom Brady and Co. became a lot tougher after the Chiefs' defense sustained a surfeit of injuries last week.Along with their ailing linebackers, the Chiefs had to put right guard Laurent Duvernay-Tardif on the disabled list with a broken bone in his leg and Armani Watts on the IR with a core muscle injury.The Chiefs signed Frank Zombo, who had spent the past five seasons with Kansas City, when they made those roster moves on Tuesday. They added Orchard to further bolster their depth."Nate had a real good college career. He played for a good friend of mine at Utah," Chiefs coach Andy Reid said of Utes coach Kyle Whittingham. "(Orchard) knows the system, he's familiar with it, then he's a good player. A very hard worker. And he's smart."The secondary is in a similar state of shambles.Strong safety Eric Berry remains sidelined with a heel injury that was supposed to keep him out a short period, but has instead sidelined him since early in camp. Daniel Sorensen remains on IR with his broken leg, though he could return in the next few weeks, and Watts has joined him on the list.Their backup, Eric Murray, was held out of practice Wednesday with a lower-leg injury.The Chiefs thought Watts had merely sustained a groin injury against the Jaguars, but trainer Rick Burkholder said an MRI revealed more damage. Watts was headed to Philadelphia for core muscle surgery on Thursday, though he should be ready for the start of practices next season.The fact that Chiefs general manager Brett Veach chose to add pass rushers in Orchard and Zombo and not an extra safety means they likely believe Berry and Sorensen will be able to help soon.Jordan Lucas Limited Vincent Valentine Jersey , who arrived in a trade with Miami just before the season, picked off his first career pass after entering the game against Jacksonville. He's in line to get more snaps alongside Ron Parker, and journeyman safety Josh Shaw could factor into the mix."It's a collective. This defense is no single guy out there being dominant," Chiefs defensive tackle Chris Jones said. "It's a collective whole. Everyone making plays, that's what we focus on."That goes for all levels of the defense, including outside linebacker, where Houston's injury and the uncertain status of Kpassagnon could mean a crucial opportunity for Breeland Speaks.The Chiefs' second-round pick has been active for all five games, but he has mostly been used on special teams and to give the starters a breather. Now, the former Ole Miss star could be counted upon to put some pressure on Brady and cover the Patriots' pass-catching running backs."I look for Breeland to keep progressing all around," Jones said. "He's got a veteran in Justin Houston in the room. Dee's in the room. Those guys he can learn from."As battered as the Chiefs defense is right now, he'd better learn in a hurry.Notes: Burkholder said Duvernay-Tardif's injury was also more severe than first believed in that the offensive lineman tore ligaments in the ankle along with breaking his fibula. Duvernay-Tardif is scheduled to have surgery Monday in Green Bay, Wisconsin. "We'll know more after the surgery how much he'll miss," Burkholder said. ... Reid confirmed that Jordan Devey is likely to start in Duvernay-Tardif's place. "He has experience," Reid said. "Everybody is confident in him that he can step up and go."
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