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AFC playoff picture: How Patriots can get No. 1 seed in AFC

Ryan Hannable
December 25, 2018 - 8:44 am

It’s officially the last week of the regular season, but no seeds in the AFC have been set. 

Yes, teams have clinched division titles and playoff berths, but the actual seeds won’t be determined until after play this Sunday.

Week 16 saw some exciting games and also some upsets with the Chargers falling at home to the Ravens Saturday night, the Texans losing to the Eagles on the road, and then the Seahawks upsetting the Chiefs Sunday night in Seattle.

A lot can still happen and here’s what the AFC playoff picture looks like as of now.

1. Chiefs (11-4)

Kansas City can clinch the No. 1 overall seed with a win when they host the Raiders this Sunday. If they lose, then a number of scenarios come into play. But for them it is simple, win and they get homefield advantage throughout the playoffs.

2. Patriots (10-5)

Thanks to the Texans losing to the Eagles, the Patriots are now back as the No. 2 seed because they hold the tiebreaker over Houston. A win over the Jets Sunday means the Patriots are guaranteed at least the No. 2 seed, but then with losses by the Chiefs and Chargers they would be the No. 1 seed. Certainly, it is a long-shot, but stranger things have happened.

3. Texans (10-5)

Houston hasn’t even clinched the AFC South, so it has a lot to play for Sunday when it hosts Jacksonville. A win and they are division champs and the No. 3 seed, but a loss means they likely would slide all the way down to the No. 6 seed. Losing to Philly Sunday likely ended its hopes of a first-round bye, as it seems unlikely New England will lose at home against the Jets.

4. Ravens (9-6)

Thanks to the upset against the Chargers, the Ravens control their own fate. A win over the Cleveland or a Pittsburgh loss to Cincinnati gives them the AFC North title, but a loss and a Steelers win means they would miss the playoffs all together. 

5. Chargers (11-4)

With their loss to the Ravens last week it is pretty simple: a win over the Broncos in Denver and a loss by the Chiefs means they win the AFC West and are the No. 1 seed. Anything other than that means they’re the No. 5 seed and have to play on wild card weekend.

6. Colts (9-6)

Right now, the Colts are the No. 6 seed, but that doesn’t matter — it will all come down to their Week 17 game on the road, Sunday night in Tennessee. The winner of the game gets in the playoffs, and the loser is out. It is possible the winner of the Colts-Titans would win the division, if Houston loses to Jacksonville. The likely case is the Sunday night game is for the final spot in the AFC with the loser going home.

In the hunt: Titans (9-6), Steelers (8-6-1)

The Titans obviously are still very much alive as with a win Sunday over the Colts means they would be in. Meanwhile, things aren’t so great in Pittsburgh. They need to beat the Bengals and then have the Ravens lose to the Browns. That would give them the AFC North title, which is likely their only path to get in. They actually could still get the second wild card spot if the Ravens lock up the division, but they would need to win and have the Colts and Titans tie.