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NFL playoff picture: Patriots slowly pulling away in the AFC after Week 6

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New England did not play on Sunday, yet came away as a winner.

New York Giants v New England Patriots Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

Coming off a Thursday night game against the New York Giants, the New England Patriots were able to enjoy a much-needed mini-bye before starting preparations for Week 7. Despite not playing over the weekend, however, the team came away as one of the big winners on Sunday due to the way the other games unfolded; and one of them stands out in particular: the Kansas City Chiefs’ 31-24 loss against the visiting Houston Texans.

The Texans’ come-from-behind victory — the team was down 17-3 after the game’s first quarter — now puts the reigning world champions at a clear advantage on the road to securing home field advantage throughout the AFC’s half of the playoff tournament. After all, the still undefeated Patriots are essentially up two games against their competition within the conference:

1. New England Patriots (6-0)

2. Houston Texans (4-2)

3. Kansas City Chiefs (4-2)

4. Baltimore Ravens (4-2)

5. Buffalo Bills (4-1)

6. Oakland Raiders (3-2)

In the hunt: Indianapolis Colts (3-2), Los Angeles Chargers (2-3)

As can be seen, the Patriots are the only undefeated team in the AFC (and one of only two in the league after the San Francisco 49ers improved to 5-0 on Sunday). Furthermore, there is just one other team that has tasted defeat merely once this season: the Buffalo Bills, whose lone loss came against New England in Week 4 — a game that puts the club 1.5 games behind its divisional rivals in the standings and the fifth overall seed.

There is still a long way to go before playoff seeds are set, of course, and the Patriots still have games against the Texans, Chiefs and Ravens as well as a second meeting with the Bills ahead of them. The events of the last three weeks, however, have created a favorable picture for New England — a perspective that advanced statistics website FiveThirtyEight seems to agree with:

NFL playoff predictions

Team Make playoffs Win division 1st-round bye Win Super Bowl
Team Make playoffs Win division 1st-round bye Win Super Bowl
Patriots >99% 90% 83% 28%
Texans 80% 63% 39% 7%
Chiefs 81% 73% 28% 7%
Ravens 68% 61% 15% 3%
Bills 76% 10% 9% 2%
Raiders 32% 15% 5% <1%
FiveThirtyEight

The Patriots will obviously continue to focus on themselves and their upcoming game against the New York Jets before paying serious attention to the rest of the conference, but one cannot argue that the dominoes have fallen in their favor recently.