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NFL: Week 15 Talking Points

The Cincinnati Bengals continue to stalk the AFC's top teams in the race for the top seeding, but the New England Patriots made an uncharacteristic blunder in Week 15.

Path to AFC's top seed open for Bengals

Just as they were last year, the Bengals are on a hot streak down the stretch and can even beat a path to the No.1 playoff seed in the AFC if they win out.

Zac Taylor's team have taken over at the top of the AFC North on the back of six successive wins, the latest of which saw them rally from a 17-point deficit to trounce the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 34-23 on Sunday.

Joe Burrow threw for four second-half touchdowns, keeping himself in the MVP conversation - for which he is +650.

But the Bengals' defense can take just as much credit as their perfect response to Tom Brady's pre-game assessment on the SiriusXM "Let's Go!" podcast that Cincy's unit was "fairly tough" was to force four turnovers.

Now just one game behind +150 Buffalo and +240 Kansas City in the race to finish as the conference's number one seed, the +375 Bengals would hold the tiebreaker over both if they win their Week 17 home clash with the Bills and the Chiefs drop one of their remaining three games.

Lawrence has Jaguars purring

The Jacksonville Jaguars, +120 to make the playoffs, are having their best season since 2017 when they lost the AFC Championship Game in Doug Marrone's first full season in charge.

Doug Pederson's men improved their record to 6-7 with Sunday's 40-34 win over the Dallas Cowboys and are now just one game behind the Tennessee Titans for the AFC South lead.

The division rivals will square off in Week 18, with potentially it all to play for, but the Jags must take the New York Jets out of playoff contention first when they face slumping Gang Green on a short week this Thursday night.

The matchup will bring the top two draft picks from the 2021 class together for the first time as No.2 selection Zach Wilson attempts to make the most of his latest - and possibly last - chance to nail down the starting QB role in New York.

Former first-overall pick Trevor Lawrence has no such career insecurities after his recent performances, the best of which he reserved for an elite Cowboys defense on Sunday.

He completed 27 of 42 passes for 318 yards and four touchdowns, leading the Jags on a game-tying TD drive before Rayshawn Jenkins returned an interception to the end zone for the walk-off win in overtime.

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Two records within reach of Mahomes

Patrick Mahomes remains on pace to break some more NFL records after throwing for 336 yards and two TDs in the Kansas City Chiefs' win over the Houston Texans on Sunday.

Mahomes, sitting at 4,496 passing yards through 14 games, needs 982 more in his final three games to break Peyton Manning's single-season mark, which stands at 5,477.

Mahomes needs just 754 yards in his last three games to set the league record for combined pass and rush yards in a season, which is currently held by Drew Brees with 5,562.

Finale to Raiders loss was un-Patriotic

Football fans the world over are still scratching their heads about what happened at the end of the Patriots' 30-24 loss to the Raiders, which was completely out of character for a Bill Belichick-led team.

A botched lateral on the final play in regulation when the game was tied at 24 apiece set the seal on a generally sloppy performance from New England.

Instead of just running the ball until the tackle and taking the game to the extra 15 minutes, Rhamondre Stevenson cooked up a bizarre plan with Jakobi Meyers to freelance a lateral.

But the wide receiver didn't spot Raiders linebacker Chandler Jones lurking near Patriots QB Mac Jones who was stiff-armed and run over as the last line of defense to the game-winning score.

First duo revealed as Pro Bowl-bound

Rosters for the 2023 Pro Bowl Games are set to be announced this Wednesday, but the first two names to be revealed came out ahead of Monday's prime-time matchup between the Green Bay Packers and the Los Angeles Rams.

It was no real shock to learn that Rams' defensive tackle Aaron Donald, who did not play in the Super Bowl champions' 24-12 loss at Lambeau Field because of injury, had earned his ninth consecutive Pro Bowl bid.

But Packers cornerback Jaire Alexander has been rewarded for a stellar season by receiving his second invitation to the NFL's all-star game.

The five-year veteran has accumulated a career-high four interceptions this season and had tallied 12 passes defended, 48 tackles and four tackles for loss in 12 games played prior to Monday night.

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