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NFL playoff picture: Patriots are now the 3rd seed in the AFC

Related: Patriots take AFC East lead after Bills’ loss to Colts

NFL: NOV 18 Patriots at Falcons Photo by Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The New England Patriots are winners of five straight, with a 25-0 blowout over the Atlanta Falcons on Thursday Night Football as their latest victory. Not only do they own the longest winning streak in football, they also keep climbing up AFC playoff picture.

After jumping into sixth place last week, they have now moved all the way up to third: with the Buffalo Bills suffering a home loss against the Indianapolis Colts, they have handed the AFC East lead and thus one of the top four seeds to their division rivals from New England.

The full playoff picture heading into Week 12 therefore looks as follows:

  1. Tennessee Titans (8-3)
  2. Baltimore Ravens (7-3)
  3. New England Patriots (7-4)
  4. Kansas City Chiefs (7-4)
  5. Cincinnati Bengals (6-4)
  6. Los Angeles Chargers (6-4)
  7. Buffalo Bills (6-4)

On the bubble: 8. Pittsburgh Steelers (5-4-1), 9. Indianapolis Colts (6-5), 10. Cleveland Browns (6-5), 11. Las Vegas Raiders (5-5), 12. Denver Broncos (5-5), 13. Miami Dolphins (4-7)

Not technically eliminated but let’s be real here: 14. Houston Texans (2-8), 15. Jacksonville Jaguars (2-8), New York Jets (2-8)

The Patriots have a strong case as the hottest team in the NFL right now, and their recent success has allowed them to contend for the top playoff seed in their conference. They could theoretically jump to the number one spot as early as this week: if New England defeats the visiting Titans while the Ravens get beaten by the Browns, seed No. 1 is the Patriots’.

Obviously, though, beating Tennessee will be a challenge — even with the Titans coming off an upset loss to the Texans on Sunday. Nonetheless, the Patriots are playing some impressive football right now and have shown that they should be capable of beating any team in the league.

Accordingly, their postseason odds have improved quite a bit as well (via FiveThirtyEight):

AFC playoff odds: Week 12

Team Make playoffs Win division First-round bye Win Super Bowl
Team Make playoffs Win division First-round bye Win Super Bowl
Titans 98% 93% 39% 8%
Ravens 83% 58% 18% 7%
Patriots 82% 48% 15% 7%
Chiefs 87% 54% 9% 9%
Bengals 48% 20% 4% 2%
Chargers 72% 40% 8% 5%
Bills 73% 51% 4% 5%

With the Patriots still having six games left on their schedule — including two against the Bills — everything is possible in either direction. That said, Bill Belichick’s team is in a good position at the moment and in the middle of an impressive turnaround: New England’s odds to make the playoffs were calculated at only 21 percent after Week 6.

The NFC playoff picture, meanwhile, looks as follows:

  1. Arizona Cardinals (9-2)
  2. Green Bay Packers (8-3)
  3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (7-3)
  4. Dallas Cowboys (7-3)
  5. Los Angeles Rams (7-3)
  6. Minnesota Vikings (5-5)
  7. New Orleans Saints (5-5)

On the bubble: 8. San Francisco 49ers (5-5), 9. Philadelphia Eagles (5-6), 10. Carolina Panthers (5-6), 11. Washington Football Team (4-6), 12. Atlanta Falcons (4-6), 13. New York Giants (3-7), 14. Chicago Bears (3-7), 15. Seattle Seahawks (3-7)

Not technically eliminated but let’s be real here: 16. Detroit Lions (0-9-1)

The NFC has a new leader: the Cardinals jumped ahead of the Packers again in Week 11, with Arizona beating the Seahawks and Green Bay losing to the Vikings. Furthermore, Tom Brady and the Buccaneers have been able to leapfrog the Cowboys to move back into the third seed again. All in all, though, the conference remains more top-heavy than the AFC.