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AFC playoff picture: Rest of conference gains ground as Patriots drop to Seahawks

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The Patriots still control the AFC, but they lost their breathing room.

If the New England Patriots had to lose a game over the second half of the season, falling to the Seattle Seahawks would have the smallest impact on the team’s playoff standings.

The Seahawks have beaten every team in the AFC East so while a win would have obviously helped the Patriots, it will not penalize New England if the season comes down to the “common opponents” tiebreaker.

Additionally, the Seahawks are out of conference, which means that the Patriots have kept their edge over the other teams in the AFC. The Patriots have a 6-1 conference record, is one game ahead of the current #2 Chiefs and half a game ahead of the Raiders.

The Patriots will clearly want to win out the rest of their schedule with games against the division-leading Ravens, the rival Broncos, a game against the Dolphins, and two games against the Jets that could shift the AFC landscape.

That said, the Raiders were on their bye week and the other four teams in the playoff standings won this week, making this the worst possible scenario for the Patriots.

1. (7-2) New England Patriots: The Patriots hold the conference record (6-1) tiebreaker over the Chiefs (5-2), giving the Patriots the top seed and control of the AFC.

2. (7-2) Kansas City Chiefs: The Chiefs beat the Raiders 26-10 back in week 6, which gives Kansas City the head-to-head tiebreaker over their divisional rival. The Chiefs had to mount a 17-point comeback to defeat the now-(3-6) Panthers.

3. (6-3) Houston Texans: The Texans have to be one of the worst 6-3 teams in NFL history. Their offense is abysmal and they were a road underdog against the worst team in their division, although they managed to beat the Jaguars 24-21. The Titans and Colts are nipping at their heels.

4. (5-4) Baltimore Ravens: The Ravens are somehow ahead of the Steelers and Bengals in the AFC North. This division should go down to the wire as every team has a major flaw. The Ravens stomped the Browns this week.

5. (7-2) Oakland Raiders: The Raiders rested on their bye week and will face the Texans next week. Oakland has already beaten the Ravens, so a win over the Texans should give the Raiders and edge when it comes to fighting for a bye week.

6. (7-3) Denver Broncos: The Broncos received a major assist from the officials to defeat the Saints this past week. The Broncos are 3-3 over their past six games and have two games against the Chiefs, one against the Patriots, and a season finale against the Raiders. There’s a real chance Denver could finish the season 9-7, although 10 wins is more likely.

In the hunt: (5-4) Miami Dolphins, (5-5) Tennessee Titans, (4-5) Pittsburgh Steelers, (4-5) Indianapolis Colts, (4-5) Buffalo Bills, (3-4-1) Cincinnati Bengals