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NFL playoff picture: The AFC runs through New England now

Related: Patriots vs. Bills: New England outlasts Buffalo, wins 14-10 in a wind tunnel

New England Patriots v Buffalo Bills Photo by Bryan M. Bennett/Getty Images

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.

  1. New England Patriots (9-4)
  2. Tennessee Titans (8-4)
  3. Baltimore Ravens (8-4)
  4. Kansas City Chiefs (8-4)
  5. Los Angeles Chargers (7-5)
  6. Cincinnati Bengals (7-5)
  7. Buffalo Bills (7-5)

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

Not technically eliminated but let’s be real here: 14. New York Jets (3-9), 16. Jacksonville Jaguars (2-10)

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

Team Patriots Ravens Titans Chiefs Chargers Bengals Bills
Team Patriots Ravens Titans Chiefs Chargers Bengals Bills
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:

  1. Arizona Cardinals (10-2)
  2. Green Bay Packers (9-3)
  3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (9-3)
  4. Dallas Cowboys (8-4)
  5. Los Angeles Rams (8-4)
  6. Washington Football Team (6-6)
  7. 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.