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AFC playoff picture: Patriots take step back, but still in mix for No. 1 seed

Ryan Hannable
November 13, 2018 - 11:50 am

Obviously, not a good week for the Patriots with their blowout loss in Tennessee. 

The defeat also set them back in the AFC playoff picture, as if the playoffs began right now they would be without a first-round bye and have to host a game on wild card weekend.

With six games after their bye this week a lot can, and will, change, but here’s how things look as of now.

1. Chiefs (9-1)

Kansas City continues to roll, but it does have some tough games coming up, beginning this Monday night against the Rams. It also has a game with the Chargers late in the year and don’t sleep on the Seahawks in Week 16. Andy Reid-coached teams have been known to slip late in the year, but we’ve yet to see it with this Chiefs team.

2. Steelers (6-2-1)

Fresh off their dominant performance over the Panthers last Thursday, the Steelers are arguably the hottest team in the league. The one thing to point out with Pittsburgh is its schedule — four games against teams over .500 the rest of the way. This is something to keep an eye on.

3. Patriots (7-3)

Just because the Patriots lost to the Titans it doesn’t take them out of the running for anything in the AFC. In fact, if they win out, we see them having a good chance at getting the No. 1 seed. It would need Kansas City to lose twice the rest of the way, which is quite possible. New England holds the tiebreaker, so it really is close to controlling its own fate. Either way, winning out would get them at worse the No. 2 seed considering it plays Pittsburgh in Week 15.

4. Texans (6-3)

Houston is in a good position considering its schedule the rest of the way. It doesn’t seem likely it will challenge any of the teams ahead of them for a first-round bye, but the AFC South should be theirs unless something really goes wrong. Besides games against Washington and Tennessee the next two weeks, it doesn’t play a team above .500 the rest of the year.

5. Chargers (7-2)

The Chargers are getting better and better each week and if they can continue winning there is still an outside chance of them catching the Chiefs in the AFC West. Games against the Broncos and Cardinals the next two weeks certainly help their cause. Los Angeles is basically a lock to make the playoffs, it’s just a matter of if they can catch Kansas City.

6. Bengals (5-4)

Thanks to a 4-1 start to the year, they are still hanging onto a spot in the playoffs, but the Bengals are trending in the wrong direction. Still, they have the ability to turn things around and grab the last playoff spot. Games against the Browns and Broncos the next few weeks are must win.

Outside looking in: Titans (5-4), Dolphins (5-5), Colts (4-5), Ravens 4-5)

Out of this group, it will likely come down to Miami and Tennessee challenging the Bengals for the final spot. Their schedules are pretty similar the rest of the way so no one has a real edge there. If Tennessee can play like it has the last few weeks we like them to grab the final spot in Mike Vrabel’s first year as head coach.

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