Jasen Vinlove/USA Today Sports

AFC playoff picture: Despite loss for Patriots, things not as bad as they could have been

Ryan Hannable
December 11, 2018 - 10:48 am

What a week.

Week 14 in the NFL may have been one of the most exciting of the season with plenty of games coming down to the wire, including games involving playoff teams. The Patriots-Dolphins was obviously the most thrilling considering the final play, but the Chiefs-Ravens and Steelers-Raiders games were also pretty dramatic coming down to the very end as well.

With three out out of the top four teams in the standings (Patriots, Texans, Steelers) losing, things didn’t really change all that much from last week.

Here’s a look at how the AFC playoff picture looks going into Week 15.

1. Chiefs (11-2)

If Kansas City can beat the Chargers this week, it will pretty much wrap up the AFC West and the No. 1 seed in the AFC. If not, then the Chargers may actually have the inside track to getting the No. 1 seed. The Chiefs’ game against the Rams was hyped as the best game of the year, but this Thursday may be the biggest game of the year just because of all the playoff implications riding on it. It’s potentially the difference between playing on wild card weekend and getting homefield advantage throughout the playoffs.

2. Patriots (9-4)

The loss to the Dolphins didn’t hurt as much as it could have. It did likely cost them a shot at the No. 1 seed, but they are no worse off when it comes to the No. 2 seed and a first-round bye. If they win out, they will be the No. 2 seed. That certainly is in the cards with games against the Steelers, Bills and Jets the rest of the way. But, Pittsburgh certainly will be a desperate team this week, as they have lost three straight games.

3. Texans (9-4)

After winning nine straight, the Texans were due for a loss which happened Sunday against the Colts. Even with the loss, they are still in line to win the AFC South and be the No. 2 or 3 seed. If the Patriots slip up, then they would be able to move up in the standings and get a first-round bye. Houston takes on the Jets, Eagles and Jaguars in the final three weeks.

4. Steelers (7-5-1)

Losing three straight games has made things very interesting in Pittsburgh and it doesn’t get any easier with games against the Patriots, Saints and Bengals the rest of the season. The Steelers are now battling with the Ravens for the AFC North title and there’s a chance the team that looses out on that may actually miss the playoffs. Pittsburgh desperately needs a win this week with a game in New Orleans next week.

5. Chargers (10-3)

It’s pretty much either the No. 1 seed or the No. 5 seed for the Chargers at this point and it basically comes down to Thursday night at Arrowhead. If they win, they aren’t guaranteed the No. 1 seed, but have a very good chance as it will come down to tiebreakers with Kansas City. If they lose, they are pretty much cemented as the No. 5 seed, but a team no one wants to see on wild card weekend.

6. Ravens (7-6)

Even with the loss Sunday, the Ravens are still holding on to the final playoff spot in the AFC. With Pittsburgh losing three straight, they now have a real shot at winning the division. Baltimore takes on the Buccaneers, Chargers and Browns the rest of the way and it appears it will need to win at least two games to get into the playoffs.

In the hunt: Dolphins (7-6), Colts (7-6), Titans (7-6), Broncos (6-7)

Denver is basically eliminated following its loss this week since they would need to jump three teams to get into the playoffs. If any of these 7-6 teams can run the table, they likely would be able to get the final spot. The Titans may have the best chance as they take on the Giants, Redskins and Colts the rest of the season. If Miami can beat Minnesota this week, they have a very good chance since they close the year with the Jaguars and Bills. Bottom line, all the teams at 7-6 control their own fate if they can win out.

Related: Tom Brady shares what Bill Belichick's message was following loss to Dolphins