The New England Patriots did not even have to take the field to seize control of their postseason destiny and they can solidify the front-running status when they host the Baltimore Ravens on Monday night. Oakland's loss to Kansas City on Thursday night put the Patriots one-half game up for the No. 1 seed in the AFC entering the final quarter of the season.
New England has won three in a row and can wrap up the AFC East title for an eight consecutive season -- which would be an NFL record -- with a win over Baltimore and a loss by Miami. The Patriots own a deceptive 7-1 regular-season record in the series against the Ravens, who have been a major nemesis for New England and quarterback Tom Brady. Four of the last six meetings (playoffs included) have been decided by four points or fewer and Baltimore owns a pair of postseason victories over the Patriots in Foxborough, Mass. The stakes are equally high for the Ravens, who are tied with Pittsburgh atop the AFC North but currently hold the tiebreaker over the Steelers.
TV: 8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN. LINE: Patriots -7. O/U: 45
ABOUT THE RAVENS (7-5): Baltimore improved to 4-1 in its last five games following its most impressive victory of the season, a 38-6 demolition of Miami last week that snapped the Dolphins' six-game winning streak. Muddling through a season of mediocrity to that point, quarterback Joe Flacco established season highs with 381 yards passing and four touchdowns while setting a franchise record with 36 completions. Tight end Dennis Pitta had nine catches for 90 yards and two touchdowns, part of a unit that features veteran Steve Smith, speedster Mike Wallace and promising Breshad Perriman at wide receiver. The Ravens have the league's top-ranked defense (296.1 yards per game) and rank No. 1 against the run (73.8 yards).
ABOUT THE PATRIOTS (10-2): New England has won three in a row, although the combined record of those opponents entering Week 13 is 8-28. Brady has 19 touchdown passes versus only one interception since returning from his four-game suspension, but he is without his No. 1 receiving target in tight end Rob Gronkowski and has 12 scoring passes versus 11 picks in 10 career games (playoffs included) versus Baltimore. Rookie Malcolm Mitchell continues to emerge as a bigger threat in the passing game with a season-high eight receptions in last week's 26-10 win over Los Angeles while LeGarrette Blount is 43 yards shy of his second 1,000-yard season. The Patriots' defense is tied with Baltimore with 17.3 points allowed -- second in the NFL.
1. The Patriots can secure a first-round bye with a win and losses by both Miami and Pittsburgh.
2. Ravens K Justin Tucker has converted all 28 field goal attempts, including eight of at least 50 yards.
3. With Danny Amendola (ankle) out, the Patriots signed fellow WR/PR Griff Whalen.
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Key Players to Watch
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New England Patriots
- PersonalQues Sun | questionable
White has missed the last two games as he was away from the team due to a death in the family. It is unknown if he will return to the fold against the Chiefs on Sunday.
- AnkleOut indefinitely | I-R
Uche has been ticketed for the injured reserve list with an ankle injury, and it is uncertain when the team will activate him.
- NeckQues Sun | questionable
Keene has been held out of the past three games due to a neck injury, and it is unclear if he will make his season debut Sunday versus the Chiefs.
- FingerQues Sun | questionable
Harris has been activated from the injured reserve list after recovering from surgery on his pinky finger. It has yet to be established if he will face the Chiefs on Sunday.
- KneeProb Sun | probable
Edelman is expected to suit up against the Chiefs on Sunday despite a knee injury.
- QuadricepQues Sun | questionable
Michel is managing a quad injury, and it is unclear if he will line up against the Chiefs on Sunday.
- ThumbOut indefinitely | I-R
Andrews has been entered on the injured reserve list while he is mend from surgery to repair a broken thumb on his right hand. There is no timetable for recovery.
- CalfQues Sun | questionable
Wynn has a calf injury, and it has yet to be established if he will be on the field for Sunday's battle with the Raiders.
- FingerQues Sun | questionable
Moore has missed the past three games due to a broken finger, and it is uncertain if he will return versus the Washington Football Team on Sunday.
- KneeQues Sun | questionable
Madubuike has sat out the previous three games with a knee injury. It is unknown if he will return to the fold Sunday versus the Washington Football Team.
- ThighQues Sun | questionable
Hill has been held out the last three games with a thigh injury, and it is unclear if he will make his season debut against the Washington Football team on Sunday.
- AbdominalProb Mon | probable
Levine Sr. has an abdominal injury, but he is likely to play against the Chiefs on Monday.
- ShoulderProb Mon | probable
Fluker is saddled with a shoulder injury, but he is projected to be in Monday's lineup versus the Chiefs.
- AnkleProb Mon | probable
Stanley left the previous game with an ankle injury, but he is expected to take part in Monday's battle against the Chiefs.
- KneeI-R | I-R
Young has been added to the injured reserve list due to a torn ACL in his left knee.
- HipProb Sun | probable
Stanley left the last game with a hip injury, but it is unlikely to affect his status for Sunday's clash against the Texans.