Marcel Reece celebrates with Oakland fans after the Raiders shocked the Chiefs Thursday night. (Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

Marcel Reece celebrates with Oakland fans after the Raiders shocked the Chiefs Thursday night. (Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

In the wake of Kansas City’s shocking loss to the Raiders on Thursday, the Broncos are perhaps the biggest winners, as Denver now has gotten some more separation from the second-place Chiefs in the chase for the AFC West crown. But at the same time, the Kansas City loss gives the Patriots a little more margin for error down the stretch.

Entering the evening, the Chiefs were the one team in the upper reaches of the AFC playoff picture that could boast of a head-to-head tiebreaker over New England, with that coming in a 41-14 blowout of the Patriots back in Week 4. But now, with Kansas City falling to 7-4 with the loss to Oakland, New England (8-2) holds a 1 1/2-game lead over the Chiefs, which could stretch to a two-game advantage if the Patriots beat the Lions this weekend.

Overall, here’s a look at the AFC playoff picture as it stands right now:

1. Patriots (8-2): New England leads the AFC East, and currently holds home-field advantage with the top seed, and would host a divisional playoff game. The Patriots have potential tiebreakers against Denver, Cincinnati and Indianapolis.

2. Broncos (7-3): Denver leads the AFC West, and has a lock on the No. 2 position going into the weekend. They would also wait out wild-card weekend and host a divisional playoff contest.

3. Bengals (6-3-1): On top of the AFC North. If the playoffs opened today, Cincinnati would host Kansas City in a wild-card game.

4. Colts (6-4): Leaders of the AFC South. They would host No. 5 Pittsburgh in an AFC wild-card game if the postseason began today.

5. Steelers (7-4): Best of the teams that aren’t tops in their division, they’d travel to Lucas Oil on wild-card weekend for a date with Indy. They have the edge on the Chiefs here because of a better conference record.

6. Chiefs (7-4): Losers against the Raiders, the Chiefs have control of the second wild-card spot — barely ahead of four teams that sit 6-4. If the playoffs opened today, they’d be at Cincinnati.

REST OF THE PACK: 7. Dolphins (6-4); 8. Chargers (6-4); 9. Ravens (6-4); 10. Browns (6-4).

Blog Author: 
Christopher Price

The NFL announced Thursday night that this weekend’s Jets-Bills game will be played in Detroit Monday night because of the massive storm that has paralyzed parts of upstate New York.

The storm has forced the Bills to cancel practices for the last two days. More than 5 feet of snow has fallen in the Buffalo area since Monday, and another 1 to 3 feet was projected to fall by Friday.

This is the second time in four years Ford Field has served as a host for a neutral site game. Following the collapse of the roof of Minnesota’s Metrodome in 2010, the Vikings and Giants played in Detroit.

Blog Author: 
Christopher Price
LeGarrette Blount has returned to Foxboro. What sort of role can he have with the 2014 Patriots? (Getty Images)

LeGarrette Blount has returned to Foxboro. What sort of role can he have with the 2014 Patriots? (Getty Images)

1. In stark contrast to the nasty words that were coming out of the Pittsburgh locker room in the wake of what happened with LeGarrette Blount over the last week, on Thursday, the vibe around the Patriots was all good when it came to the newest Patriot. Special teams captain Matthew Slater called him a “great teammate,” while fullback James Develin said it was “good” to have him back. Meanwhile, Jonas Gray — who will likely see his role shrink some with the addition of Blount — said he had no problem with the move, adding that the veteran is is a “great guy to learn from.” As for what sort of role awaits him, it’s likely he’ll split duties with Gray as the primary between-the-tackles back, as well as serve as some sort of insurance policy if the stage gets too big for the youngster, or if he puts the ball on the ground at some point. It’s also possible he sees time as a part-time kick returner — with the occasional exception of Danny Amendola, no one has really done much to distinguish themselves in the position. With his background last year, it certainly makes sense for the Patriots to give him a shot back there.

2. Few teams have seen the type of turnover at the running back position as New England. With the injury to Ridley, if form holds, the Patriots will have their sixth different back lead the team in rushing in 2014 over the last decade — only four other teams (Saints, Browns, Broncos and Cardinals) have had more. Corey Dillon (2004-2006), Laurence Maroney (2007, 2009), Sammy Morris (2008), BenJarvus Green-Ellis (2010-2011) and Stevan Ridley (2012-2013). And now, with Ridley on the shelf the rest of the year, this season it figures to be either Vereen, Gray or Blount. That could change again next year, as Brandon Bolden, Ridley and Shane Vereen are all in the final year of their contracts, while Blount, Gray and rookie James White are all under contract for 2015. (In addition, Tyler Gaffney, who was claimed by the Patriots this summer but is spending the year on injured reserve because of a knee issue, is still a possibility to be a part of the mix next season.) Regardless, even with all the changes, things could still change between now and the start of next season.

3. As forward thinking as the Patriots offense — and the passing game in particular — has been the last few years, there’s something impressively retro about what New England might be able to do this season. If we operate with the idea that a “running back by committee” includes a team with four backs with at least 40 carries, it appears that for the second straight season, the Patriots will attempt to be the first team to win a Super Bowl using the “running back by committee” approach since the 1987 Redskins, who won Super Bowl. Right now, the Patriots three different backs reach with at least 69 carries (Ridley with 94, Vereen with 70 and Gray with 69). While some of those numbers are borne out of necessarily since Ridley went down, if Blount is able to click down the stretch for New England — and it’s entirely possible he can hit the 40-carry mark, given his experience in the system — he would be a fourth. If the Patriots could take the title, it would represent the greatest cross-section of work for running backs for any Super Bowl champion since that Washington team emerged with a win in Super Bowl XXII. (Of course, that Redskins team could be discounted on a penalty, as that was a strike year and one of the backs was a scab who rushed 80 times in three strike games but never played another down. If you disqualify them on a technicality, them the last true RBBC team to win a Super Bowl in a non-strike year was the 1981 Niners, a team that had five different backs finish with 40 carries or more: Ricky Patton, Earl Cooper, Johnny Davis, Walt Easley and Paul Hofer.)

4. The guy who will be affected the least when it comes to his role down the stretch and (presumably) into the postseason is Vereen. A third-down option who has become a steady and reliable presence as a pass catcher out of the backfield, he will stay in his role as an occasional ballcarrier, but will also continue to be featured as either the third or fourth option in the passing game behind Rob Gronkowski, Julian Edelman and Brandon LaFell. For what it’s worth, Vereen is closing in on the second 40-catch, 40-carry season of his career. After 10 games, he has 70 carries for 328 yards, both of which are career highs, as well as 35 catches on 53 targets for 305 yards and three touchdowns. He’s only one of six backs in the league who have at least 70 carries and 35 catches at this point in the season, joining a group that includes Dallas’ DeMarco Murray, Pittsburgh’s Le’Veon Bell, Arizona’s Andre Ellington, Chicago’s Matt Forte and Indy’s Ahmad Bradshaw.)

5. When it comes to Blount, it has almost as much to do with including him on your roster as it does keeping him away from running back-starved teams like the Colts and Broncos. While every team had a crack at him via waivers, the idea of Blount with Indy or Denver for the stretch drive and into the postseason certainly makes a lot of sense. Both teams are headed for the playoffs, but both the Colts and Broncos have major questions about the state of their respective running games at this time of the year. Indy has just lost Ahmad Bradshaw for the season with an ankle injury he sustained in the loss to the Patriots last Sunday, while Trent Richardson has been unable to gain any sort of traction in his relatively short career with the Colts. In addition, the Broncos are struggling when it comes to picking up quality yardage on the ground — starter Montee Ball is still struggling with a groin injury and backup Ronnie Hillman will apparently miss another week because of a foot injury. In the meantime, Denver will lean on C.J. Anderson and unddrafted rookies Juwan Thompson and Kapri Bibbs, as well as practice squadder Jeremy Stewart. (Word out of Denver was that the franchise believed there wasn’t enough time left in the season for a running back to come in and learn the team’€™s offensive system.)

Blog Author: 
Christopher Price

There was a familiar face walking the halls of Gillette Stadium this week — Randy Moss.

Tom Brady weighed in with his thoughts on the return of LeGarrette Blount to the Patriots Thursday with another tremendous Facebook post.

Blog Author: 
Christopher Price
Randy Moss is back in Foxboro this week. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Randy Moss is back in Foxboro this week. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

There was a familiar face walking the halls of Gillette Stadium this week — Randy Moss.

The former Patriots wide receiver is in town to do some TV work for Fox in advance of Sunday’s Patriots-Lions game. Between his work, Moss sat down with Patriots.com reporter Jackie Brittain for an interview for Patriots.com.

Moss talked about a variety of topics, including how he became a member of the Patriots. Moss was traded to the Patriots from the Raiders before Day 2 of the 2007 NFL draft for a fourth-round pick in that draft.

“I’ve said this story time and time again, but I just want people to understand that I am very grateful,” Moss told Brittain. “When I came from Oakland, I was in a dark place. I was in a dark place because I was there for two years, I got traded from the Vikings and things weren’t going well in California. I was away from home, my career wasn’t going the way I wanted it to go.

“I remember I was in Houston, Texas doing the draft and I got a call from Bill Belichick and I thought it was one of my friends playing. I was like, ‘Who is this?’ and he was like, ‘This is Bill Belichick.’ I was like, ‘Man, get real, who is this?’ Coach told me that if I am up here by 10 o’clock next morning, bla, bla, bla, then the trade would go through. Man, I started scrambling.

“When I came up here and became a Patriot I was very thankful, I was very grateful. Mrs. Myra Kraft played a role in it. When she passed away I had to pay my respects to the home, to the family, and when I go see Mr. Kraft he doesn’t call me Randy Moss, he calls me Randy Moss Kraft. They welcomed me into the family and like I said, still to this day it’s just love and anytime you come here you feel the love from the Kraft family.”

When Mrs. Kraft passed away in 2011, Moss flew to Boston for the funeral and signed the condolence book, ‘Randy Moss Kraft.’

Moss spent three-plus seasons as a Patriot, with things not ending so well as Moss was traded in the middle of the 2010 season back to the Vikings. After the first game that season, Moss told the media it would be his last season in New England — apparently upset of the lack of a contract extension offer. Things continued to get worse and finally after Week 4 when Moss didn’t catch a pass for the first time as a Patriot and visibly showing his frustrations, he was traded to Minnesota along with a seventh-round pick for a third-round pick in the 2011 draft.

Despite how the end went, Moss doesn’t hold any grudges or hard feelings and still loves coming back to New England.

“It does, especially when you see familiar faces — meeting with Tom [Brady], seeing Bill [Belichick], seeing Mr. Kraft,” said Moss. “There’s a lot of memories that I have here. I just told Bill, there is a special place in my heart for the New England Patriots.”

 

Blog Author: 
Ryan Hannable

Running back LeGarrette Blount took to Twitter Thursday afternoon to express his feelings about returning to the Patriots. (The veteran, who spent the 2013 season in New England, was released earlier in the week by the Steelers. He was signed by the Patriots on Thursday.)

Blog Author: 
Christopher Price

When it comes to playing at Gillette Stadium, Detroit defensive back Glover Quin said it’s tough for road teams to get thrown by the occasionally rural environment of Southeastern Massachusetts.

Detroit defensive back Glover Quin sounds like he's a little thrown when it comes to playing in Foxboro. (Leon Halip/Getty Images)

Detroit defensive back Glover Quin sounds like he’s a little thrown when it comes to playing in Foxboro. (Leon Halip/Getty Images)

When it comes to playing at Gillette Stadium, Detroit defensive back Glover Quin said it’s tough for road teams to get thrown by the occasionally rural environment of Southeastern Massachusetts.

“Foxboro’s a weird place,” Quin told the Detroit Free-Press this week. “You go up there and you’re in a hotel and then you got to drive through like back woods to get there and then all of a sudden a stadium appears like it seems like in people’s backyard and it’s like, just a weird place out there. And they love it. They play great there. I’ve never won there. I’ve played there three or four times, I’ve never won there. It’s tough to win there.

“I just know you’re going through like the back woods, and you’re just like, ‘Oh my God, what am I going to?’ And then all of a sudden it’s like you see like a little trailer park or something like that, and then all of a sudden you see the stadium, you’re like ‘Whoa, right in the backyard?'” Quin added. “It’s weird out there. It’s weird out there, I can’t even lie.”

Quin said a big reason why the Patriots have done so well at home is because of a smart fan base that knows when to make noise and when it be quiet.

“That the crowd is so silent on offense and Tom Brady is able to really control the offense as opposed to having to signal a lot,” Quin said. “Look at a TV copy of a home game from New England and just listen, you can hear everything that he’s saying.”

For more Patriots news, check out weei.com/patriots.

Blog Author: 
Christopher Price

The league announced Thursday that Sunday’s game between the Bills and Jets won’t be played in Buffalo this weekend because of the massive snowstorm that has blanketed parts of upstate New York.

According to the NFL, the league is in the process of finding a suitable alternate venue for the game.

“Due to public safety concerns in light of the ongoing weather emergency in Western New York, Sunday’s Jets-Bills game will not be played in Buffalo,” NFL spokesman Michael Signora said in a statement. “We are in the process of rescheduling and relocating the game as part of Week 12. We will provide additional information as soon as possible.

“We have been in contact with the public authorities and we realize the importance of all available public safety resources being available for the community at this difficult time. We are also in discussions with the team and the Red Cross on ways the NFL can support the community through this weather disaster.”

Detroit and Washington reportedly loom as possible replacement sites.

Blog Author: 
Christopher Price