With the stretch drive looming, the AFC playoff picture is starting to come into sharper focus. Here’s a snapshot of the current conference playoff chase, with a look at the top eight teams in the conference, their record, where they stand currently in the race for the postseason and their remaining schedule.

The Patriots played their first game on Sunday since Rob Gronkowski was placed on injured reserve.</p>
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Tom Brady and the Patriots are trying to find a way around the Raiders. (Scott Galvin/USA Today Sports)

Tom Brady and the Patriots are trying to find a way around the Raiders. (Scott Galvin/USA Today Sports)

With the stretch drive looming, the AFC playoff picture is starting to come into sharper focus. Here’s a snapshot of the current conference playoff chase, with a look at the top eight teams in the conference, their record, where they stand currently in the race for the postseason and their remaining schedule. It’s also worth checking out the playoff odds for each team, which are updated every week at Football Outsiders.

1. Raiders (10-2): Remaining opponents: at Chiefs (9-3), at Chargers (5-7), vs. Colts (6-6), at Broncos (8-4) — Opponents record — 28-20 (.583 winning percentage)
And so, here we all are in early December, looking at Oakland as the No. 1 seed in the AFC. Just like we all thought, right? The Raiders, who moved ahead of the Patriots Sunday because of the fact they have the best record in common games, deserve plenty of credit for their body of work to this point. If they can survive the remaining divisional gauntlet, you can’t say Oakland didn’t earn home field advantage.

2. Patriots (10-2): Remaining opponents: vs. Ravens (7-5), at Broncos (8-4), vs. Jets (3-9), at Dolphins (7-5) — Opponents record — 25-23 (.521)
New England’s next two weeks are huge. If the Patriots can beat Baltimore at home and Denver on the road, they’ll be in fine shape heading into the final two weeks. If both New England and Oakland each hold serve over the next three games, the Patriots could be in the rare situation of rooting for the Broncos to beat the Raiders in the regular season finale if they want to get home field. Strange days, indeed.

3. Ravens (7-5): Remaining opponents: at Patriots (10-2), vs. Eagles (5-7), at Steelers (7-5), at Bengals (4-7-1) — Opponents record —26-21-1 (.541)
Baltimore is still in the driver’s seat in the AFC North, but needs to keep winning to stay ahead of the Steelers, who have such a pillowy-soft schedule the rest of the way the guys at Sleep Number should look into using it as a template.

4. Texans (6-6): Remaining opponents: at Colts (6-6), vs. Jags (2-10), vs. Bengals (4-7-1), vs. Titans (6-6) — Opponents record — 18-29-1 (.375)
One of two things is going to happen in the AFC South: Either the Texans will lose a wild-card game, or the Titans will overcome Houston and give pretty much every football fan outside of the greater Houston area the story we all want.

5. Chiefs (9-3): Remaining opponents: vs. Raiders (10-2), vs. Titans (6-6), vs. Broncos (8-4), at Chargers (5-7) — Opponents record —29-19 (.604)
Let’s end the formalities and throw all three AFC West playoff contenders into the octagon now. The two teams that come out warm the right to advance to the playoffs. Thursday’s game between Kansas City and Oakland should be a lot of fun.

6. Broncos (8-4): Remaining opponents: at Titans (6-6), vs. Patriots (10-2), at Chiefs (9-3), vs. Raiders (10-2) — Opponents record — 35-13 (.729)
Denver has the toughest road the rest of the way, but a pair of divisional games over the last two weeks of the season will go a long way toward determining what happens to them.

7. Dolphins (7-5): Remaining opponents: vs. Cardinals (5-6-1), at Jets (3-9), at Bills (6-6), vs. Patriots (10-2) — Opponents record — 24-23-1 (.502)
A big loss this past weekend to the Ravens snapped Miami’s six-game winning streak. If they can take care of business the next two weeks against lesser opponents, the Dolphins could still be in position for that last wild-card spot heading into the regular-season finale against New England.

8. Steelers (7-5): Remaining opponents: at Bills (6-6), at Bengals (4-7-1), vs. Ravens (7-5), vs. Browns (0-12) — Opponents record — 17-30-1 (.354)
Three winnable games over the last month of the season for Pittsburgh means the AFC North chase isn’t over quite yet.

Blog Author: 
Christopher Price

It could be a hat and t-shirt game Monday for the Patriots.

New England can clinch the AFC East Monday for the eighth straight year and 13th time in the last 15 years if a series of events take place:

—A New England win and Miami loss or tie.
—A New England tie and Miami loss.

In addition, New England can clinch a first-round bye in the AFC with the following:

—A New England win and Miami loss or tie plus a Pittsburgh loss or tie.

Blog Author: 
Christopher Price

rotobahn-logoWelcome to the waiver wire, everybody, and props to all those who just qualified for the postseason. It’s Week 14, and in the vast majority of leagues that means half of the teams now are toast. So, while most waiver wires have been picked pretty clean over the last 13 weeks, there will be fewer GMs to compete with when making bids or claims this week. There are some relative values out there in case you have a need or if you want to bolster your bench a bit. The quarterback market is pretty light, but most of you probably are in good shape there. Based on ownership rates, Joe Flacco is the guy to add this week for depth or if you need a Week 14 option. The pickings at the other positions are a little better, as you will see. The plum of this week’s crop probably is Ladarius Green, who busted out against the Giants in Week 13.

As always, I will be working through game film, and I will add a few new names when I post the expanded waiver wire over at Rotobahn on Tuesday afternoon, along with another waiver wire podcast. The pod is a good quick listen, and I will tweet a link to it on as soon as it’s posted. Go here to follow @Rotobahn on Twitter.

If you have tough lineup decisions this week, look for my starts and sits article, which will be posted on WEEI this Friday as always. My lineup rankings, posted at Rotobahn, will go up on Thursday and will have a final update on Saturday.

Good luck to all this week!

The ownership rates listed for each player were sourced from Yahoo!

QUARTERBACKS

Joe Flacco, Ravens, 23 percent

He’s a stable weekly option who happens to be hot right now. The Ravens play a solid playoff schedule, and Flacco is a decent-to-good play each week going forward. Stable. Solid. Decent. I know it’s not exciting, but he can keep you competitive.

Tyrod Taylor, Bills, 63 percent

Taylor has nice playoff matchups, and he has Sammy Watkins back, too. Watkins gives him an actual weapon defenses must respect. Taylor can start for you over the next three weeks, though his play has been erratic the last few games. The bottom line is that he is a dynamic running threat and that gives him a decent weekly floor. The schedule and Watkins’ return give him some ceiling to go with it.

Ryan Tannehill, Dolphins, 26 percent

He’s not an option I like this week, but you can consider adding him for his matchup in Week 15 when the Dolphins travel to play the Jets. The Jets are barely playing football right now and look ready to fold up like a cheap tent. They made Dwayne Allen look like Kellen Winslow Sr. on Monday night.

RUNNING BACKS

Justin Forsett, Broncos, 6 percent

He could potentially be lightning in a bottle. Then again, players switch teams multiple times per season for a reason and Forsett is near his expiration date. The question is, might he have a few good games in his legs? He is returning to the scheme that he’s had the most success in. With Kapri Bibbs done for the year and with Devontae Booker struggling, Forsett could get a good run at some point over the next few weeks. He’s a very strong speculative add in a pretty well-drained free agent market.

Jerick McKinnon, Vikings, 44 percent

He’s not the goal-line back, but he has been more involved in the red zone and scored last week. His targets have been up the last few weeks and he appears to be past the ankle problems that slowed him throughout the middle of the season. McKinnon is a solid flex play in 12-team leagues this week with the Vikings visiting the Jaguars, and things get even better next week when the Vikings host the Colts.

T.J. Yeldon, Jaguars, 55 percent

With Denard Robinson (ankle) now hurt and with Chris Ivory (hamstring) dinged up, Yeldon could be in for some significant workloads the next few weeks. Of course, Yeldon hasn’t been a picture of health himself, and if his ankle is an issue this week then Corey Grant becomes a name to know. Grant is a seriously fast back who has plenty of potential if he is getting the carries.

Dion Lewis, Patriots, 58 percent

He wasn’t used much in the second half of what was a one-sided game from the get go. This week’s game should be more competitive, and the Patriots need wins to secure home field. To me, Lewis makes a solid flex play or even RB2 in 12-team PPR leagues this week.

Kenneth Dixon, Ravens, 46 percent

He’s now in a clear timeshare with Terrance West, but Dixon’s game has really been rounding into shape. He has some appeal in PPR leagues as an RB2 option, albeit a light one. If West gets dinged up, Dixon’s value would skyrocket. The Ravens’ remaining schedule is neither good nor bad.

Wendell Smallwood, Eagles, 37 percent

In Week 13 he was small for sure, but he was a victim of a blowout in the wrong direction. Things might get better this week with Washington visiting the Eagles, but watch out for Ryan Mathews, who could return from his knee injury. If Mathews sits again, Smallwood retains flex appeal. Week 15 value will be scant as the Eagles travel to Baltimore.

Mike Gillislee, Bills, 23 percent

He’s back healthy and posting solid numbers again as the first back up behind LeSean McCoy. He’s a great handcuff for McCoy owners, but he also has some flex appeal in bigger leagues, so he’s a stand-alone option, too.

Charles Sims, Buccaneers, 13 percent

He’s been out a long while so there’s no way to tell just how good he will be when he first comes back. Still, he’s talented enough to make for a nice stash in deeper PPR leagues. He could be startable as a flex by Week 15.

Rex Burkhead, Bengals, 5 percent

In deeper leagues Burkhead could help in desperate situations because he is in a good matchup against the Browns and looks like a good bet to get around 10 touches.

DeAngelo Williams, Steelers, 21 percent

He is one of the most valuable handcuff options out there, and he is healthy again. If you are a Le’Veon Bell owner, you really ought to roster him to cover your posterior. If Bell is out, then Williams starts and is an RB1. He’s a viable handcuff in all leagues now that it’s playoff time.

WIDE RECEIVERS

Tyler Lockett, Seahawks, 37 percent

I’m a big believer in Lockett, and he finally is looking like himself after suffering from a PCL injury through much of 2016. He gets a sweet matchup with Green Bay’s secondary in Week 14, so he has immediate appeal in 12-team leagues. If you are looking for good matchups in Weeks 15 and 16, then Lockett is less appealing as he faces the Rams and Cardinals, respectively.

Malcolm Mitchell, Patriots, 30 percent

He played 85 percent of the offensive snaps, and that’s huge. Mitchell is a very nice add right now, especially in deeper leagues where he has some WR3 appeal. It’s pretty clear that he’s a playmaker and that Tom Brady has an idea of how to use him. Danny Amendola’s high-ankle sprain should keep him out for a few weeks, so Mitchell is pretty well locked in for now.

Dontrelle Inman, Chargers, 20 percent

He’s been consistently productive over the second half of the season, and he’s put a few nice fantasy games together the last two weeks. With Travis Benjamin struggling to regain his pre-injury form, Inman has filled the void. He’s a viable flex this week and can be a WR3 if you need him.

Brandon LaFell, Bengals, 17 percent

The Bengals aren’t going anywhere in 2016. I think that’s a factor as to when or even if A.J. Green returns this season. The odds of Green returning this week are low, in my estimation, and LaFell is coming off a very good game against the Eagles. He should be able to keep it going this week against the Browns, so if you are looking for a WR3 this week, LaFell fits the bill.

Tyler Boyd, Bengals, 53 percent

He gets a very nice matchup with the Browns this week, and he will not see much of Joe Haden in coverage because Boyd usually is deployed as a slot receiver. He can help you this week if you need a WR3 — particularly in PPR leagues.

Pierre Garcon, Washington, 32 percent

He’s been solid for the last few weeks, and that coincides with Jordan Reed’s absence, which obviously opens up targets for other receivers. If Reed sits this week, and I think he will, then Garcon is a viable flex or WR3 in 12-team leagues when Washington travels to Philadelphia.

Ted Ginn, Panthers, 23 percent

Ginn has caught fire the last three weeks after being relatively quiet for 10 games. You can try to ride the wave this week if you have a need at receiver. The matchup is not great, as the Chargers have been relatively tough on receivers. Ginn has been targeted 16 times over the last two games, so the ball is coming his way.

Adam Thielen, Vikings, 16 percent

He’s led the Vikings receivers in snaps the last four weeks. Granted, part of that is due to Stefon Diggs’ sore knee, but Thielen is getting targeted and giving owners consistent flex value in PPR formats. He’s been targeted 20 times over the last two games and has an average matchup this week when the Vikings travel to Jacksonville.

Breshad Perriman, Ravens, 2 percent

He’s a big-time talent and has scored in three straight games. In deeper leagues, he can really be a factor as a WR3. His targets are steady at about four per week, but they are getting him good matchups and you have to think his role is going to grow with the plays he’s been making. He’s a great stash option who you can absolutely play if you have to.

TIGHT ENDS

Ladarius Green, Steelers, 23 percent

He is no longer a stash option, as I have been saying for the last few weeks. Hopefully you already own Green, but if you do not, you still have a chance. He has a big weekly ceiling and is the best player available in most leagues this week. If you are a dazed Rob Gronkowski owner, Green could potentially save your bacon. Go get him — even if it’s to keep him off of your competition’s roster.

Vernon Davis, Washington, 37 percent

The key to his TE1 appeal obviously is the status of Jordan Reed, and there’s no way to know now whether Reed will suit up for Week 14 or even Week 15, for that matter. Davis has looked very good lately and absolutely will see the ball if he’s the starter. He’s shown good rapport with quarterback Kirk Cousins.

Dennis Pitta, Ravens, 33 percent

He’s baaaack. After weeks of futility and low usage, Pitta busted out in Week 13 and dropped nine receptions, 90 yards and two touchdowns on the unsuspecting Dolphins. That type of performance will earn him looks this week when the Ravens travel to Foxboro.

Lance Kendricks, Rams, 15 percent

He did not have a great day against the Patriots, but he gets a very nice matchup this week against the Falcons. He can help you in a deeper league this week if you are in need.

Blog Author: 
Peter Davidson

Sunday’s 26-10 win over the Rams was a milestone win for Tom Brady, as it was win No. 201, which allowed Brady to pass Peyton Manning for the most all-time among NFL quarterbacks.

Tom Brady

Tom Brady

Sunday’s 26-10 win over the Rams was a milestone win for Tom Brady, as it was win No. 201, which passed Peyton Manning for the most all-time among NFL quarterbacks.

Patriots owner Robert Kraft presented him the game ball afterwards in the locker room and Brady said many of his friends and former teammates reached out to him.

On Westwood One’s pregame show for Monday Night Football, Jim Gray asked Brady if a few high profile people reached out to him, including Roger Goodell.

“I got that question earlier today [on Kirk & Callahan] and no, but I wouldn’t expect that anyway, so that’s fine,” Brady said. “He probably has plenty of other important things as well.”

What about President Barack Obama?

“No, I didn’t,” Brady said. “But that is OK. He has plenty of over things to worry about that are far more important than this.”

President-elect Donald Trump?

“Nope,” Brady said. “I’m sure he has plenty of other things to worry about as well.”

The Patriots quarterback was also asked what setting the record meant to him, but he didn’t want to discuss it much and defected the praise. Gray asked Brady why he’s so hesitant to reflect on what he’s accomplished.

“I think I am still on a journey,” Brady said. “I never thought about the wins I would have, or Super Bowls. I just always tried to do the best I could do. The motivation I have is trying to be the best that I can be every day for as long as I choose to keep playing. My motivations are different. Certainly, I am proud of everything that has been accomplished over the course of my career and I am proud of what my team has been able to accomplish, but I also feel there is a lot more to accomplish.

“I’m still kind of walking that path and maybe one day I will sit back and think about all these incredible things that have happened, but right now is not the time.”

Blog Author: 
Ryan Hannable
Julian Edelman

Julian Edelman

Targets have been compiled by the NFL since the start of the 2009 season, and while it remains a vaguely imperfect stat — a badly thrown ball from a quarterback can often go against the record of the receiver as opposed to the quarterback — it remains a good indication of the confidence level a passer or coach might have in said pass catcher. With all that in mind, here’s a look at the target breakdown through the first 12 games of the regular season.

WR Julian Edelman: 72 catches on 112 targets (64 percent)
RB James White: 47 catches on 66 targets (71 percent)
TE Martellus Bennett: 44 catches on 58 targets (76 percent)
WR Chris Hogan: 27 catches on 40 targets (68 percent)
TE Rob Gronkowski: 25 catches on 38 targets (66 percent)
WR Malcolm Mitchell: 24 catches on 37 targets (65 percent)
WR Danny Amendola: 23 catches on 29 targets (79 percent)
RB Dion Lewis: 11 catches on 17 targets (65 percent)
RB LeGarrette Blount: 6 catches on 7 targets (86 percent)
RB Brandon Bolden: 2 catches on 4 targets (50 percent)
FB James Develin: 1 catch on 3 targets (33 percent)
RB D.J. Foster: 1 catch on 2 targets (50 percent)
QB Jimmy Garoppolo: 1 catch on 1 target (100 percent)
WR Matthew Slater: 0 catches on 1 target (0 percent)

Breakdown of targets by position
Wide Receiver: 146 catches on 219 targets (67 percent)
Running Back: 68 catches on 99 targets (69 percent)\
Tight End: 69 catches on 98 targets (70 percent)
Quarterback: 1 catch on 1 target (100 percent)

By way of comparison, here’s a look at how the targets broke down through 12 games last year.

Blog Author: 
Christopher Price

Tom Brady and Joe Flacco have had some memorable duels over the years.</p>
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Sunday was a special win for the Patriots and Tom Brady.

So special that owner Robert Kraft recognized an individual player in the locker room following the 26-10 win over the Rams, as it was win No. 201 for Brady, passing Peyton Manning for most wins by a quarterback in NFL history.

“We don’t usually recognize individual achievements — our team is so important — but when you break a record that in the 90-odd year history of the NFL, you win 201 games, which no other quarterback has done, I think our quarterback deserves it,” Kraft said to the team before handing him the game ball.

Thanks to Patriots.com for the video.

Blog Author: 
Ryan Hannable