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NFL playoff picture: Patriots have the inside track to earn the AFC’s number one seed despite loss in Baltimore

Related: AFC East Report: Week 9

NFL: NOV 03 Patriots at Ravens
“If you’re happy and you know it...”
Photo by Mark Goldman/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The New England Patriots may have fallen from the ranks of the NFL’s undefeated thanks to their 37-20 loss at the hands of the Baltimore Ravens, but they are still in a good spot heading into their bye week and the second half of the season. After all, the team has an 8-1 record and remains in the driver’s seat for both its record-extending 11th straight division title as well as the number one seed in the AFC’s half of the playoff tournament.

All in all, the top of the conference is aligned as follows entering Week 10 of the regular season:

1. New England Patriots (8-1)

2. Baltimore Ravens (6-2)

3. Houston Texans (6-3)

4. Kansas City Chiefs (6-3)

5. Buffalo Bills (6-2)

6. Indianapolis Colts (5-3)

In the hunt: Pittsburgh Steelers (4-4), Oakland Raiders (4-4)

While the Patriots are currently on their bye, they are also in the middle of the toughest stretch of their schedule. After having already played the Ravens — the team’s primary contender for the number one seed at this point in time — the team has games against the Texans, Chiefs and Bills as well as a contest against the 5-4 Philadelphia Eagles awaiting on the horizon. Needless to say that the playoff picture could change quite a bit soon.

Nevertheless, the Patriots do control their own destiny and can create more separation within the playoff field soon. Not only would wins against the three fellow AFC contenders basically secure a first-round bye, the team will also get to watch the Ravens — who are now owning the head-to-head tiebreaker over New England in case the teams finish the regular season with the same record — still go up against Houston and Buffalo.

As a result, advanced statistics website FiveThirtyEight still has the Patriots as the favorite in all four of its playoff prediction categories:

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% 94% 82% 21%
Ravens 94% 88% 48% 10%
Texans 84% 63% 27% 5%
Chiefs 88% 83% 27% 8%
Bills 68% 6% 5% <1%
Colts 54% 31% 7% 2%

The Patriots will have plenty of work to do over the course of their bye week, considering how their game in Baltimore went down, but they still have the inside track to earn the AFC’s top seed and are in a good position to pull away from the competition over the next few weeks. The margin of error did undoubtably get smaller on Sunday night, but the club is still the frontrunner to get home field advantage throughout the postseason.

The NFC’s playoff picture, meanwhile, looks as follows nine weeks into the season:

1. San Francisco 49ers (8-0)

2. New Orleans Saints (7-1)

3. Green Bay Packers (7-2)

4. Dallas Cowboys (5-3)

5. Seattle Seahawks (7-2)

6. Minnesota Vikings (6-3)

In the hunt: Los Angeles Rams (5-3), Carolina Panthers (5-3), Philadelphia Eagles (5-4)

Nine teams are currently competing for the six playoff spots in the NFC, with the race for the two wildcard seeds shaping up to be an intriguing one — just like those for the titles in all four of the divisions.