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As the conference levels out, the Patriots’ postseason chances are getting better

Bill Belichick hasn't taken particular note of the parity in the AFC; he just focuses on the next opponent.Matthew J Lee/Globe staff

The Patriots moved into first place in the AFC East Sunday, thanks to the Bills losing to the Colts.

Elsewhere in the AFC, the conference-leading Titans fell to the bottom-dwelling Texans, the Chiefs won their fourth straight game after a rocky 3-4 start, and the Chargers squandered a 14-point fourth-quarter lead before beating the Steelers.

Ten teams remain in the hunt for the AFC’s seven playoff spots, with the 7-4 Patriots currently in possession of the third seed.

So, what does Patriots coach Bill Belichick think of the seemingly increased parity across the league this season?


“I don’t know,” he said Monday morning. “That’s really a better question for somebody else. I try to focus on the teams that we play. Obviously, last week, we spent a lot of time on Atlanta, and the week before that, we spent a lot of time on Cleveland.

“What everybody else is doing, you see bits and pieces of it, and you see some of the crossover games, some situational things that come up — I monitor those pretty regularly and weekly. But just sitting back and watching games, that’s not really my thing right now.”

The results of the weekend certainly benefited the Patriots. According to FiveThirtyEight, New England now has an 82 percent chance of advancing to the postseason, a 48 percent chance of winning the division, and a 15 percent chance of earning the AFC’s first-round bye.

The upcoming four-game stretch will heavily influence those numbers, as the Patriots are scheduled to face the Titans at home, the Bills on the road, the Colts on the road, and the Bills again at home. They will have a break for their bye week in between traveling to Buffalo and Indianapolis.

Bill Belichick will get a chance to coach against former Patriots' linebacker Mike Vrabel this week when New England meets Tennessee. Mark Zaleski/FR170793 AP via AP

Based on the winning percentages of their remaining opponents, the Patriots have the 12th-toughest remaining schedule (.508) and the Bills have the 13th (.500).


Names to watch

Two Patriots assistant coaches have been tapped by NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero as candidates to watch during the offseason hiring cycles.

Inside linebackers coach Jerod Mayo, who interviewed for the Eagles head coaching opening last offseason, is once again expected to be in the mix for vacancies. The 35-year-old Mayo joined Belichick’s staff in 2019 with no coaching experience.

Former Patriots' linebacker Jerod Mayo has made no secret about his desire to one day become a head coach.Jim Davis/Globe Staff

“It’s definitely an honor,” Mayo said Monday of his inclusion on NFL Network’s list. “I definitely aspire to be a head coach in this league. At the same time, I would say I’m really focused on this season. We’ll see what happens at the end of the year.”

Tight ends coach Nick Caley is another who could be on the move in the future. The 38-year-old Caley joined Belichick’s staff in 2015 as an offensive assistant. He previously worked at the college level, including stops at Arkansas (graduate assistant) and Florida Atlantic (secondary coach).

Caley said Monday he doesn’t “put a lot of stock” into the coaching buzz.

“Obviously, I’ve got aspirations professionally to grow, like a lot of guys, but to be honest with you, I’ve always stuck with the recipe of just trying to focus on the job that I have,” he said. “I’ve never been one to really try to get ahead of myself there.”

There are two former Patriots assistants who are currently NFL head coaches: Joe Judge with the Giants and Brian Flores with the Dolphins.


Hot potatoes

With Thanksgiving approaching, Belichick was asked during his weekly radio interview on WEEI for his favorite side dish. Belichick went with any type of potatoes — mashed, scalloped, or baked. Said Belichick, “Load ‘em up. Throw some butter on there. Starch me up.” Quarterback Mac Jones was asked the same question during his weekly radio interview and gave a similar answer: “Mashed potatoes and gravy.”

Nicole Yang can be reached at nicole.yang@globe.com.