New England Patriots

(L-R) Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes, Los Angeles Rams quarterback Jared Goff (Jay Biggerstaff/Gary A. Vasquez, USA Today)

(L-R) Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes, Los Angeles Rams quarterback Jared Goff (Jay Biggerstaff/Gary A. Vasquez, USA Today)

By Matt Dolloff,

The Patriots may be off this Sunday, but football’s football. Surely you’re interested in what’s going on with the other American footballin’ clubs in Week 11, especially as it pertains to the playoff picture in the AFC.

There’s one clear marquee matchup in NFL Week 11 action, but it actually takes place on Monday night. If the Patriots aren’t making it back to the Super Bowl, Chiefs-Rams could very well be a Super Bowl preview. Just because everyone is expecting an offensive extravaganza, it’ll probably be 15-10 with five safeties.

Besides Kansas City, other AFC playoff contenders could add pressure to the idle Patriots with, you know, winning. Here’s a quick look at what to watch for on Sunday & Monday.

— Will Chiefs-Rams live up to the hype? It appears that the NFL will avoid a disaster by moving the biggest game of the season to date out of Estadio Azteca in Mexico City and back to Los Angeles. It’s everything the league wants in a marquee matchup. A pair of 9-1 teams, at the top of the league, led by a pair of dynamic young quarterbacks and explosive offenses. Everyone’s still waiting for Kansas City to have its usual second-half stumble, but it hasn’t happened yet. With potential league MVP Patrick Mahomes under center instead of Alex Smith, this year may be different for Andy Reid & Co. And if the Rams pull it off, they become the clear Super Bowl favorites – if they weren’t already.

— Titans look to deliver an encore. They can knock the Colts out of realistic playoff contention with another win. But in general, it’ll be interesting to see what Mike Vrabel and Tennessee have for a follow-up to their dominant performance against the Patriots last Sunday. This has “letdown” written all over it, after the Titans appeared to treat their 34-10 win over the Patriots like Their Super Bowl™. But if they can improve to 6-4, they can slide right into contention for a Wild Card spot.

— Can the Steelers keep rolling? Pittsburgh has won five in a row after starting the season 1-2-1. The Le’Veon Bell drama is officially in the past (especially now that his locker has been pillaged). They have a chance to get revenge from last year’s playoffs with a road tilt against the hey-we’re-actually-not-that-good-and-Week-2-was-our-Super-Bowl Jacksonville Jaguars. They’re technically ahead of the Patriots in the standings, since they have two losses and a tie (essentially half a loss) rather than three losses. More winning from this crew will only make life harder for the Pats moving forward.

— Texans can put more pressure on the Patriots. Houston has gone 5-2 since losing to the Patriots in Week 1. Despite losing to the Titans (5-4) in Week 2, the 6-3 Texans hold a one-game lead in the AFC South and can match the Pats’ record with a road win over the Redskins. The Pats obviously have the head-to-head tiebreaker over them, but it would just make it that much more important for the Patriots to basically run the table for the rest of the season. The Patriots will certainly be one of the top-4 teams in the AFC, but the last thing they want to have is a guaranteed road game in the divisional round.

— How real are the Chargers? The Patriots could very well end up with a home game in the Wild Card round, and their opponent could end up being the Los Angeles Chargers. They’re a trendy dark horse pick every season, and this time they’re poised to move to 8-2. They’ll likely end up in the Wild Card because Chiefs, but they’re a potentially dangerous matchup for New England. They have an explosive offense and talent up front on defense, and could have Joey Bosa back in January. We’ll see where this team is at that point – they do usually find a way to screw it up – but they do have some high-end talent playing some of the best football of their careers.

See you in Week 12!

Matt Dolloff is a digital producer for Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff or email him at