The NFL regular season is only about half completed, but is it conceivable the races are virtually over in at least two of the eight divisions?
First-place New England (6-2) was the only AFC East team to win Sunday, meaning the Patriots now own a two-game lead over the second-place New York Jets (4-4). The Patriots erased a 17-3 deficit to rub out Miami, 27-17, in Foxborough while the Jets looked hapless in a 49-9 loss to the Bengals in Cincinnati, which leads the AFC North by 2ø games.
In the NFC South, New Orleans maintained its two-game lead over second-place Carolina with its 35-17 win over the Bills. More important, perhaps, the Saints now lead defending NFC South champion Atlanta (2-5) by four full games.
A look at Sunday’s games:
Game of the day
Broncos 45, Redskins 21
The scoop: Peyton Manning overcame four turnovers and Denver scored the last 38 points against former Broncos coach Mike Shanahan. Manning finished with 354 yards and four touchdown passes to offset his three interceptions and lost fumble.
Why the Broncos won: Washington had five turnovers (four interceptions) and punted three times in its final eight series of the game.
Chiefs 23, Browns 17
The scoop: Alex Smith threw for 225 yards and two touchdowns, and Kansas City held off Cleveland late in the fourth quarter to remain the NFL’s lone undefeated team. The Chiefs, off to their best start since 2003, built a 20-7 lead late in the first half before the Browns made it a game. Jason Campbell threw for 293 yards and two touchdowns for the Browns. The Chiefs stopped the Browns on downs with just over 2 minutes left, and Ryan Succop kicked his third field goal in the closing seconds to help seal the victory.
Why the Chiefs won: They punted five times and had a gift field goal in their six second-half series, but they allowed Cleveland to penetrate the K.C. 49 only once after halftime.
Patriots 27, Dolphins 17
The scoop: New England shook off a dismal first half and another mediocre performance by Tom Brady to win. Trailing 17-3 after gaining just 59 yards in the half, the Patriots quickly turned the game around in the third quarter with two touchdowns in a span of seven plays. The Patriots outscored the Dolphins, 17-0, in the third. Miami lost its fourth straight. Brady completed 13-of-22 passes for just 116 yards, but threw a 14-yard touchdown pass to Aaron Dobson with 6:32 gone in the third quarter that began the comeback.
Why the Patriots won: Miami’s offense produced nothing in the second half. The Fish had three turnovers and two failed field-goal tries in their seven offensive series. Ryan Tannehill’s fumble at the Miami 13 set up the tying touchdown for New England.
Bengals 49, Jets 9
The scoop: Andy Dalton threw a career-high five touchdown passes, four of them to Marvin Jones, who set a Cincinnati receiving record with scoring catches of 9, 6, 17 and 6 yards. Dalton’s five touchdown passes gave him 11 in his last three games. The last quarterback to throw for five TDs against the Jets was Dan Marino in 1988. New York took its most lopsided loss since 2010.
Why the Bengals won: Cincinnati scored on four of six first-half possessions. On one where they failed, they drove to the Jets’ 2 before turning the ball over on downs.
Lions 31, Cowboys 30
The scoop: After seemingly intending to spike the ball to stop the clock, Matthew Stafford lunged 1 yard with 12 seconds left to cap Detroit’s comeback from a 10-point deficit. The TD was set up by Stafford’s 22-yard pass to Calvin Johnson, who had 329 yards receiving on 14 catches, second most yards receiving in NFL history. Johnson’s total was second only to the 336 yards Flipper Anderson had for the Los Angeles Rams against New Orleans on Nov. 26, 1989, in a game that went into overtime.
Why the Lions won: They outgained Dallas, 623-268, and won despite giving the Cowboys 13 points on just 9 yards offense on three scoring series.
Packers 44, Vikings 31
The scoop: Minnesota rookie Cordarelle Patterson returned the opening kickoff 109 yards but Green Bay offset that later with a 93-yard punt return by Micah Hyde. Aaron Rodgers completed 24 of 29 passes for 285 yards and two touchdowns. James Starks, the former Niagara Falls High and UB star, ran 25 yards for a Packers touchdown in the fourth quarter.
Why the Packers won: Minnesota had no answer for Rodgers who posted a 130.6 passer rating.
Giants 15, Eagles 7
The scoop: Josh Brown kicked a career-high five field goals and Eli Manning played error-free as the Giants won their second in a row and avenged an earlier loss to Philadelphia. Michael Vick returned for the Eagles after missing 2½ games with a hamstring injury, but left the game late in the second quarter. The Giants snapped an eight-game road losing streak while extending Philadelphia’s home losing streak to 10 games.
Why the Giants won: They limited the Eagles to 200 yards total offense and kept their foes out of the end zone for the second game in a row. The Eagles scored on a 2-yard fumble return.
Raiders 21, Steelers 18
The scoop: Terrelle Pryor ran 93 yards on the first play from scrimmage for the longest touchdown run ever by a quarterback to spark Oakland.
Why the Raiders won: They held the Steelers to 35 yards rushing and 1.8 per attempt.
Cardinals 27, Falcons 13
The scoop: Rookie Andre Ellington rushed for 154 yards on 15 carries, including an 80-yard touchdown run, and the Cardinals intercepted Matt Ryan four times.
Why the Cardinals won: They forced Atlanta to abandon the run. Ryan attempted 61 passes and the Falcons gained only 27 yards on the ground.
Dog of the day
49ers 42, Jaguars 10
The scoop: Colin Kaepernick threw for one touchdown and ran for two more to lead San Francisco at Wembley Stadium in London. Kaepernick ended up with 164 yards passing and 54 yards rushing.
Why the 49ers won: They produced four long touchdown drives before the Jaguars could get on the board with a field goal with 10 seconds left in the first half.
News wire services contributed to this report