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2019 NFL playoff picture: Patriots stay ahead of Chiefs, Texans in the race for a first-round bye

Related: Patriots vs Bengals recap: New England secures playoff spot with 34-13 win in Cincinnati

Kansas City Chiefs v New England Patriots Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images

Coming off back-to-back losses, the New England Patriots returned to the win column on Sunday against the Cincinnati Bengals: the reigning world champions won 34-13 on the road to improve their record to 11-3. The victory does not only keep the Patriots in a favorable position when it comes to winning their division for the 11th year in a row, it also allows them to stay ahead of their competition in the race for a first-round playoff bye.

Even though both the Kansas City Chiefs and the Houston Texans own the head-to-head tiebreaker against New England and also won in Week 15, they are currently projected to play on wild card weekend as a look at the AFC’s playoff picture shows:

AFC playoff picture

  1. Baltimore Ravens (12-2)
  2. New England Patriots (11-3)
  3. Kansas City Chiefs (10-4)
  4. Houston Texans (9-5)
  5. Buffalo Bills (10-4)
  6. Pittsburgh Steelers (8-6)

In the hunt: Tennessee Titans (8-6)

As can be seen, the Patriots will keep the second seed in the conference if they win out. Of course, doing that is easier said than done: while the team will be clearly favored to win its Week 17 game against the Miami Dolphins, the upcoming contest against the Buffalo Bills projects to be a major challenge — one that could have a big impact on the AFC’s playoff race. Likewise, a win would all but secure a first-round bye for New England.

The Patriots therefore are in a good position entering Week 16, and FiveThirtyEight’s playoff projection confirms this point of view:

AFC playoff predictions

Team Make playoffs Win division 1st-round bye Win Super Bowl
Team Make playoffs Win division 1st-round bye Win Super Bowl
Ravens 99% 38%
Patriots 97% 78% 9%
Chiefs 21% 9%
Texans >99% 88% <1% 1%
Bills 3% 2% 1%
Steelers 42% <1%

As the numbers show, the Chiefs are the Patriots’ main competition for a first-round bye — and one that has a favorable schedule moving forward: in Week 16, Kansas City will travel to Chicago to take on a 7-7 Bears team that is already eliminated from playoff contention. One week later, the reigning AFC runner-ups will host a team they have already beaten earlier this year: the Los Angeles Chargers, currently third in the AFC West with a 5-9 record.

NFC playoff picture

  1. Seattle Seahawks (11-3)
  2. Green Bay Packers (11-3)
  3. New Orleans Saints (11-3)
  4. Dallas Cowboys (7-7)
  5. San Francisco 49ers (11-3)
  6. Minnesota Vikings (10-4)

In the hunt: Los Angeles Rams (8-6), Philadelphia Eagles (7-7)

From the top-two seeds in the conference to the title in the conference’s Eastern division to the final wild card spot, the NFC remains wide open at this point in time. The next two weeks will therefore feature some big matchups: the Eagles and Vikings will host the Cowboys and Packers, respectively, with the Seahawks and 49ers going at each other one week later. Don’t get used to the NFC’s current playoff picture.