It may not have been overly pretty but since style points do not matter in the NFL, the New England Patriots were still able to bounce back from their loss against the Baltimore Ravens in Week 9: the reigning world champions went on the road and defeated the Philadelphia Eagles with a final score of 17-10, improving their regular season record to 9-1 — the 19th straight winning season earned by the Patriots organization.
Beating Philadelphia also ensured that the team stays atop the AFC for another week, despite the second-seeded Ravens owning the head-to-head tiebreaker after their win versus New England two weeks ago. At this point, the race for the number one seed in the conference therefore remains a two-team affair and any mistake made by either one of the clubs could shift the competition in the other’s favor.
With that being said, the conference’s playoff picture looks as follows entering Week 12 of the regular season:
1. New England Patriots (9-1)
2. Baltimore Ravens (8-2)
3. Kansas City Chiefs (7-4)
4. Indianapolis Colts (6-4)
5. Buffalo Bills (7-3)
6. Houston Texans (6-4)
As can be seen, the Patriots and Ravens are well ahead of the other teams in the conference. However, the Chiefs could take advantage of any slip-up considering that they have already beaten Baltimore in Week 3 and will also travel to New England in Week 14 — Kansas City still has a chance at pushing one of the teams out of a first-round playoff bye. The same goes for a Colts team that owns the tiebreaker over the Chiefs but will play neither of the top-two in the regular season.
Keeping that in mind, let’s take a look at the remaining schedules for the current six playoff teams:
AFC schedule: Week 12 — Week 17
|Week 12||vs Cowboys||at Rams||Bye||at Texans||vs Broncos||vs Colts|
|Week 13||at Texans||vs 49ers||vs Raiders||vs Titans||at Cowboys||vs Patriots|
|Week 14||vs Chiefs||at Bills||at Patriots||at Buccaneers||vs Ravens||vs Broncos|
|Week 15||at Bengals||vs Jets||vs Broncos||at Saints||at Steelers||at Titans|
|Week 16||vs Bills||at Browns||at Bears||vs Panthers||at Patriots||at Buccaneers|
|Week 17||vs Dolphins||vs Steelers||vs Chargers||at Jaguars||vs Jets||vs Titans|
The Patriots are currently in the middle of their most difficult stretch of the season, but they are far from the only team in the AFC to face some formidable opponents over the next few weeks. Baltimore, for example, will go up against three playoff hopefuls in a row and close the season against a Steelers team that bounced back nicely after starting the season 1-4. Kansas City, meanwhile, has arguably the easiest road towards the playoffs.
Needless to say, however, that the race for the conference’s playoff seeds will be an intriguing one.
The NFC’s playoff picture, meanwhile, looks as follows:
1. San Francisco 49ers (9-1)
2. Green Bay Packers (8-2)
3. New Orleans Saints (8-2)
4. Dallas Cowboys (6-4)
5. Seattle Seahawks (8-2)
6. Minnesota Vikings (8-3)
Of the six playoff teams in the NFC, the Cowboys’ position is arguably the most fragile with the Eagles 1.5 games behind in the standings. The two teams’ meeting in Week 16 could very well decide who wins the division and makes the postseason.