One year removed from a disappointing 7-9 season, the New England Patriots are back in familiar territory: at least for the moment they are back atop the AFC. Thanks to its 14-10 victory over the Buffalo Bills on Monday night, the team of head coach Bill Belichick now owns a 9-4 record as well as the number one playoff seed in the conference.
The win in Buffalo helped achieve that current ranking but so did the Baltimore Ravens’ upset loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday. This shows how open the AFC remains 13 weeks into the season, and that the Patriots need to add to their winning streak following their upcoming bye week in order to keep the conference running through Gillette Stadium.
For the time being, however, they can enjoy the top spot.
- New England Patriots (9-4)
- Tennessee Titans (8-4)
- Baltimore Ravens (8-4)
- Kansas City Chiefs (8-4)
- Los Angeles Chargers (7-5)
- Cincinnati Bengals (7-5)
- Buffalo Bills (7-5)
Eliminated: 15. Houston Texans (2-10)
The Patriots leaving Buffalo with a win has put them atop the AFC, and naturally has helped increase their chances of not just making the playoffs, but doing so as the top seed in the conference. According to FiveThirtyEight, New England’s playoff odds are now 98 percent (+9); the chances of winning the division and earning the playoff bye associated with the No. 1 seed have jumped to 76 (+31) and 44 percent (+19), respectively.
Obviously, though, the next few weeks will decide the Patriots’ fate — and some challenging games still await after their bye:
AFC playoff competitors: Weeks 14-18
|Week 14||--||at Browns||vs. Jaguars||vs. Raiders||vs. Giants||vs. 49ers||at Buccaneers|
|Week 15||at Colts||vs. Packers||at Steelers||at Chargers||vs. Chiefs||at Broncos||vs. Panthers|
|Week 16||vs. Bills||at Bengals||vs. 49ers||vs. Steelers||at Texans||vs. Ravens||at Patriots|
|Week 17||vs. Jaguars||vs. Rams||vs. Dolphins||at Bengals||vs. Broncos||vs. Chiefs||vs. Falcons|
|Week 18||at Dolphins||vs. Steelers||at Texans||at Broncos||at Raiders||at Browns||vs. Jets|
While the Bills’ upcoming game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will be a tough one, so will be New England’s road contest in Indianapolis. The biggest game on both their schedules, however, is the Week 16 meeting in Foxborough — a game that could very well decide the race for the AFC East and the top seed in the conference.
The NFC playoff picture, meanwhile, looks as follows:
- Arizona Cardinals (10-2)
- Green Bay Packers (9-3)
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers (9-3)
- Dallas Cowboys (8-4)
- Los Angeles Rams (8-4)
- Washington Football Team (6-6)
- San Francisco 49ers (6-6)
On the bubble: 8. Philadelphia Eagles (6-7), 9. Minnesota Vikings (5-7), 10. Carolina Panthers (5-7), 11. Atlanta Falcons (5-7), 12. New Orleans Saints (5-7), 13. New York Giants (4-8), 14. Chicago Bears (4-8), 15. Seattle Seahawks (4-8)
Not technically eliminated but let’s be real here: 16. Detroit Lions (1-10-1)
The top-heavy NFC saw only minimal changes compared to last week: Washington leapfrogged San Francisco in the standings, but neither team is in a comfortable position just yet. In total, 10 games project to compete for the final two playoff spots alongside the conference’s top-five.