Week 16 went as well for the New England Patriots as they could have hoped. While the team won the AFC East thanks to a 24-12 victory against the visiting Buffalo Bills, its main opponents in the race for playoff seeding all lost over the last two days. As a result, the Patriots currently find themselves in the number two seed — and with potential to climb up even further:
1. Kansas City Chiefs (11-4)
2. New England Patriots (10-5)
3. Houston Texans (10-5)
4. Baltimore Ravens (9-6)
5. Los Angeles Chargers (11-4)
6. Indianapolis Colts (9-6)
The playoff picture saw quite a few changes recently: as noted above, the Patriots leapfrogged the Texans to reach the number two seed for now, while the Steelers dropped out of the playoff picture entirely thanks to a 31-28 defeat against the New Orleans Saints. Meanwhile, the Colts are in but face a do-or-die battle against the Titans on Sunday. Also: the Ravens are the new seed number four after winning in Los Angeles on Saturday.
For the Patriots in particular, the last two days worth of action also mean that they are still mathematically in contention for the number one seed in the conference. Three things need to happen in order to get there:
1. New England needs to beat the New York Jets: The Patriots’ division rivals, who are currently in the “race” for the number one draft pick next spring, will visit Foxboro on Sunday. If New England wins, it secures the number two seed but can get even further if steps number two and three take place as well.
2. Kansas City loses against the Oakland Raiders: After dropping their prime time game in Seattle yesterday, the Chiefs have not yet locked up the top seed. That being said, it would be a major surprise if they failed to do that versus the Raiders on Sunday: the Chiefs are one of the best home teams in football and clearly the more talented squad.
3. Los Angeles loses against the Denver Broncos: The Chargers have a more difficult task in week 17, as they need to win in Denver to keep their chances at the AFC West title and a first-round playoff bye alive. As mentioned above, the Chargers lost against the Ravens on Saturday — or else they would be the number one seed by now.
Given that all of those three things need to happen it is unlikely that the Patriots end up with the number one seed. However, they are in a very good position to secure the AFC’s second first-round bye and host a divisional round playoff game. All they have to do is to beat a lowly Jets team on Sunday that has not won in Foxboro since the 2010 playoffs. Seeing New York pull off the upset again would be one of the biggest surprises of the season.
All in all, each of the AFC’s four seeds are still in play for the Patriots: if the team loses on Sunday, it might drop all the way to the fourth while a win makes sure the team gets one of the top two and a bye. The NFL playoff picture sure remains exciting.
The NFC’s playoff picture currently looks as follows:
1. New Orleans Saints (13-2)
2. Los Angeles Rams (12-3)
3. Chicago Bears (11-4)
4. Dallas Cowboys (9-6)
5. Seattle Seahawks (9-6)
6. Minnesota Vikings (8-6-1)
In the hunt: Philadelphia Eagles (8-7)
While the Patriots are currently the only division winner in the AFC, all four of the NFC’s divisions are already locked up. What is left undecided is the final wild card spot: the Vikings host the Chicago Bears on Sunday, while the Eagles need to win in Washington.