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NFL playoff picture: Patriots move into 2nd place in the AFC

Related: A tale as old as time: As the weather gets colder, the Patriots get hotter

NFL: NOV 28 Titans at Patriots Photo by Fred Kfoury III/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

With Thanksgiving over, the New England Patriots have now entered a “new” season — something repeatedly pointed out by their head coach and players. And if their first post-Thanksgiving game is a sign of things to come, the team should feel quite good about its outlook this season.

New England defeated the visiting Tennessee Titans 36-13 to improve to 8-4 on the year. While the game was closer than the final score would indicate, the result itself is still a very positive one: the Patriots have now won six straight and have climbed up into the second place in the AFC playoff picture.

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

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

Not technically eliminated but let’s be real here: 14. New York Jets (3-8), 15. Houston Texans (2-9), 16. Jacksonville Jaguars (2-9)

The battle for AFC supremacy continues to be a tight one, but New England now owns the head-to-head tiebreakers over both the Titans and Chargers. The team also has the best conference record at 6-1, which gives it another big advantage over its rivals (the Chiefs, for comparison, are only 2-4).

Obviously, though, a lot can change over the coming weeks. A look at the December schedules for the current top-7 shows this:

AFC playoff competitors: December schedules

Team Ravens Patriots Titans Chiefs Bengals Bills Chargers
Team Ravens Patriots Titans Chiefs Bengals Bills Chargers
Week 13 at Steelers at Bills -- vs. Broncos vs. Chargers vs. Patriots at Bengals
Week 14 at Browns -- vs. Jaguars vs. Raiders vs. 49ers at Buccaneers vs. Giants
Week 15 vs. Packers at Colts at Steelers at Chargers at Broncos vs. Panthers vs. Chiefs
Week 16 at Bengals vs. Bills vs. 49ers vs. Steelers vs. Ravens at Patriots at Texans

As can be seen, there are a lot of games between clubs in the top-7 — starting with New England’s two bouts against Buffalo. Those two games will have a massive impact on the playoff seeding in the conference, as will others such as the matchups between the Ravens and Bengals, or the Chiefs and Chargers.

The Patriots, of course, will continue their “one game at a time” approach. This week, that game is a massive AFC East showdown in Buffalo.

The NFC playoff picture, meanwhile, looks as follows:

  1. Arizona Cardinals (9-2)
  2. Green Bay Packers (9-3)
  3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (8-3)
  4. Dallas Cowboys (7-4)
  5. Los Angeles Rams (7-4)
  6. San Francisco 49ers (6-5)
  7. Washington Football Team (5-6)

On the bubble: 8. Minnesota Vikings (5-6), 9. Atlanta Falcons (5-6), 10. New Orleans Saints (5-6), 11. Philadelphia Eagles (5-7), 12. Carolina Panthers (5-7), 13. New York Giants (4-7), 14. Chicago Bears (4-7), 15. Seattle Seahawks (3-8)

Not technically eliminated but let’s be real here: 16. Detroit Lions (0-10-1)

With the top-4 teams either on a bye or winning their respective games, there was no movement atop the NFC’s current playoff standings. Even the Rams’ loss in Green Bay did not change their position given how top-heavy the conference is. The only changes occurred at No. 6 and No. 7: the 49ers and Football Team filled the spots previously occupied by the Vikings and Saints.