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NFL playoff picture: Patriots in prime position to earn AFC’s number one seed halfway through their regular season

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Related: Instant analysis from Patriots’ 27-13 win over Browns

Cleveland Browns v New England Patriots Photo by Omar Rawlings/Getty Images

While there are still plenty of areas to address before talk about the playoffs can kick into a higher gear, the New England Patriots can fill good about where they stand halfway through their regular season: sitting at 8-0, the reigning world champions continue to look like one of the best if not the best team in the NFL — one that is in prime position to earn home field advantage throughout the AFC’s portion of the postseason tournament.

After all, the Patriots hold a commanding lead over their opposition at this point in time. The team is the only one undefeated in its conference, and in fact the only one with fewer than two losses on its résumé. As a result, New England heads into the second half of its regular season — one that includes games against four teams currently in the playoff picture — with a two-game lead against the rest of the AFC’s playoff hopefuls:

1. New England Patriots (8-0)

2. Indianapolis Colts (5-2)

3. Baltimore Ravens (5-2)

4. Kansas City Chiefs (5-3)

5. Buffalo Bills (5-2)

6. Houston Texans (5-3)

In the hunt: Jacksonville Jaguars (4-4), Tennessee Titans (4-4)

As noted above, the Patriots will have to go up against four other clubs listed here. The team will visit the Ravens next Sunday night before heading into its bye, with games against the Texans, Chiefs and Bills — New England won the first meeting between the two division rivals — also on the horizon. However, the first eight weeks of regular season play have given Bill Belichick’s team considerable wiggle room heading into a tough stretch.

As a result, advanced statistics website FiveThirtyEight also seems to feel good about the Patriots as no other team is given as good a chance to earn at least a first-round playoff bye:

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% 97% 93% 30%
Colts 71% 45% 25% 3%
Ravens 84% 79% 30% 5%
Chiefs 84% 81% 19% 5%
Bills 65% 3% 2% <1%
Texans 71% 38% 21% 4%
FiveThirtyEight

The Patriots will obviously continue to focus on themselves and their upcoming game against the Ravens before paying too serious attention to the rest of the conference and its standings heading towards the postseason. However, one cannot argue that the dominoes have fallen in the team’s favor recently.