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2014 AFC Playoff Picture: Patriots Implications

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The AFC Playoff Picture is closer to settling, how does this affect the Patriots?

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The Broncos have sealed a first round bye, solidifying the top two playoff slots in the AFC. The Bengals are currently battling the Steelers for the AFC North crown and the 3rd seed, while the loser gets the 5th seed. The Colts have the 4th seed, while the Ravens clinched the 6th seed today with a Chargers loss in Kansas City.

Seeds:

1. New England Patriots

2. Denver Broncos

3. Cincinnati Bengals/Pittsburgh Steelers

4. Indianapolis Colts

5. Bengals/Steelers

6. Baltimore Ravens

The Wild Card round of the playoffs will see another AFC North battle with tonight's victor hosting the Ravens. Baltimore lost both regular season games to the Bengals, but split the season series with the Steelers. The Colts will host tonight's loser.

It's likely in the Patriots best interest for the Steelers to defeat the Bengals tonight. While Cincinnati defeated the Broncos earlier this year, they're extremely unlikely to get four interceptions in the rematch, while the Steelers offer the best chance of defeating Denver.

This will allow the Steelers to host the Ravens, while the Colts get to play the Bengals. This means the Patriots will host either the Colts (1-3), Bengals (2-2), or Ravens (0-4), who are a collective 3-9 while visiting teams that finished the year with a winning record- and two of those victories came against the Texans, and the third was the Bengals opening week victory over the Ravens.

(note: to be fair, the Steelers are 1-1 while visiting teams with winning records, a win versus the Bengals and a loss against the Ravens. The entire AFC North is hyper-inflated for getting to place the AFC South and the NFC South, where only the Colts and the Texans finished above .500)

There aren't many scary teams in the AFC outside of the Broncos, a team the Patriots were retooled in the off-season to defeat.

The Patriots will get their bye to get healthier, while they wait to see their next opponent. Who would you most rather see?

EDIT: The Bengals have lost to the Steelers. Here's the playoff picture:

1. New England Patriots

2. Denver Broncos

3. Pittsburgh Steelers

4. Indianapolis Colts

5. Cincinnati Bengals

6. Baltimore Ravens