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AFC playoff picture: Patriots still have realistic shot at No. 2 seed, first-round bye

Ryan Hannable
December 18, 2018 - 10:42 am

Week 15 is in the books and things are becoming more clear in the AFC.

The Chargers’ win over the Chiefs on Thursday makes things a little complicated at the top, but things are starting to come into place with two weeks in the regular season remaining.

Kansas City wasn’t the only top team to fall, as the Patriots lost to the Steelers on the road and now have a real chance of playing on wild card weekend for the first time since 2009.

Here is how the AFC playoff picture looks at the moment.

1. Chiefs (11-3)

Even with the loss last Thursday, Kansas City still control its own fate in the AFC. If it beats the Seahawks (on the road) and the Raiders, then it will be the No. 1 seed and have homefield advantage. It it drops one of those games and the Chargers win out, then the Chiefs would drop all the way to the No. 5 seed since the division winners are seeded 1-4.

2. Texans (10-4)

By way of their win over the Jets and the Patriots’ loss to the Steelers, Houston now is the No. 2 seed and would get a first-round bye. It plays at Philadelphia and then hosts Jacksonville the last two weeks. If it wins both, it guarantees the No. 2 seed, but one loss and the Patriots winning out means it would fall back to the No. 3 seed and have to play on wild card weekend.

3. Patriots (9-5)

With Sunday’s loss, the Patriots are now guaranteed to have the most losses in a season since 2009 when they went 10-6 and lost on wild card weekend. With home games against the Bills and Jets the rest of the season, they have a realistic chance of winning out, and just need the Texans to lose once to move back into the No. 2 spot. It appears the Patriots will either be the No. 2 or 3 seed given their remaining schedule.

4. Steelers (8-5-1)

Sunday’s win over the Patriots was huge, especially considering they play at the Saints this coming weekend. It’s pretty unclear at this point who exactly the Steelers are, but given the Ravens’ remaining two games (at Chargers, Browns) it seems they will able to win the AFC North. But, even in the win over the Patriots they showed they aren't a great, great team.

5. Chargers (11-3)

The Chargers will likely either be the No. 1 seed or 5 seed, depending on the final two weeks. They host the Ravens and then travel to Denver to close out the season and would need to win out and have the Chiefs lose once to climb up the standings. No matter what happens, the Chargers are a team that can beat anyone in the AFC, even if it means going on the road for three playoff games.

6. Ravens (8-6)

Baltimore keeps hanging on to the final wild card spot, but with a game at the Chargers this week and the Colts and Titans behind them with the same record, a loss would knock them out of the playoff picture going into the final week of the season. As of now, Baltimore would travel to New England on wild card weekend and that would be a bad matchup for the Patriots.

In the hunt: Colts (8-6), Titans (8-6), Dolphins (7-7), Browns (6-7-1)

A lot would need to happen for the Dolphins and Browns to sneak in, so it’s really between the Ravens, Colts and Titans for the final spot. The Colts and Titans play in the final week of the season, which could ultimately decide who gets the last spot in the AFC.

Related: Tom Brady: 'Tough conversations and tough coaching' occurred Monday following Patriots' loss to Steelers