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AFC Playoff Picture: Patriots can lose next week and still move up to the #1 seed

Aren’t tiebreakers fun?

The New England Patriots entered the week as the #1 seed, did their job and beat the Los Angeles Rams 26-10, and now the Patriots are the #2 seed. Funny how tiebreakers work.

The Patriots and the Oakland Raiders are tied atop the AFC at 10-2, but with the Raiders comeback victory over the Bills, the two top teams now share identical 7-1 conference records.

The next tiebreaker is “common games” and the two teams share the Bills, Broncos, Ravens, and Texans on the schedule. The Patriots are facing the Ravens and Broncos over the next two weeks, while the Raiders have their season finale on the road against the Broncos. Unfortunately for New England, the Patriots are 2-1 in these common games, while the Raiders sit at 4-0, giving Oakland the tiebreaker.

It’s crazy how that week 4 game against the Bills plays such an important role in conference seeding.

Since the Patriots have no chance at catching the Raiders in the next tiebreaker “strength of victory”, where the Raiders have a sizeable 0.467 to 0.370 edge, the only hope for the Patriots is that the Raiders finish the season with a worse overall record.

The Raiders close out the season with three of their final four games on the road against divisional opponents, with one home game against the Colts. The Raiders next game is on a short week against the Chiefs, where a Kansas City victory would drop the Raiders out of 1st and into a wild card spot.

In a bizarre twist, if the Raiders and the Patriots both lose next week, the Patriots will move back up to 1st place in the conference. That’s just how the tiebreakers work.

Be sure to check out how the Patriots can clinch the AFC East division title and a first round bye next week!

1. (10-2) Oakland Raiders

2. (10-2) New England Patriots

3. (7-5) Baltimore Ravens

4. (6-6) Houston Texans

5. (9-3) Kansas City Chiefs

6. (8-4) Denver Broncos

In the hunt: (7-5) Miami Dolphins, (7-5) Pittsburgh Steelers, (6-6) Tennessee Titans, (5-6) Indianapolis Colts