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AFC playoff picture: Patriots are the #1 seed, Broncos barely hanging in playoffs

The Patriots are hoping to pick up some distance in the AFC on Monday night.

No matter the outcome on Monday Night Football, the New England Patriots will be the #1 seed in the AFC upon completion of week 14. The Patriots would prefer to defeat the Baltimore Ravens and build a lead over the rest of the field, of course, but it’s not essential to claim #1 for this week.

While the AFC East is pretty much wrapped up for New England, the other three divisions are wide open with a pair of teams jockeying for the top spot.

In the AFC North, the Pittsburgh Steelers are half a game ahead of the Baltimore Ravens. The Steelers will be rooting for the Patriots on Monday. It’s also clear that the #3 seed will have the easier wild card weekend match-up against the Denver Broncos, Miami Dolphins, Tennessee Titans, or even the second place finisher in the division.

The AFC South features a tie in first with the Texans and Titans sharing 7-6 records, and the Colts barely behind at 6-7. It seems like the week 17 bout between the Texans and Titans should determine the outcome of the division. The AFC South winner has the most difficult path because they’ll likely have to face the second place team from the AFC West.

The Raiders and Chiefs are tied atop the AFC West at 10-3, although the Chiefs boast the season sweep. The loser of this race gets to face the #4 seed. The Broncos are clinging to the final wild card spot.

The Patriots hold the balance of the AFC playoff picture in their hands as they face both the Ravens and Broncos over the next two weeks.

If the Patriots hold on to the #1 seed, the ideal playoff picture would include both wild card teams upsetting the #3 and #4 seeds. The #5 seed is probably the 3rd best team in the AFC and would face the #2 seed, while the Patriots would get to play whatever team barely made the playoffs.

1. (10-2) New England Patriots

2. (10-3) Kansas City Chiefs

3. (8-5) Pittsburgh Steelers

4. (7-6) Houston Texans

5. (10-3) Oakland Raiders

6. (8-5) Denver Broncos

In the hunt: (8-5) Dolphins, (7-5) Ravens, (7-6) Titans, (6-7) Colts