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AFC playoff picture: Things getting interesting at top, Patriots remain No. 2 seed

Ryan Hannable
December 04, 2018 - 9:45 am
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Week 13 in the NFL is in the books and what an interesting week it was.

In the NFC, the Saints were knocked off by the Cowboys, while in the AFC, the Chargers came from behind to stun the Steelers in Pittsburgh Sunday night. This made the top of the AFC a little more clear, but with other top contenders winning, things are heating up for the top two seeds and a first-round bye.

Here’s a quick look at how things look as of now.

1. Chiefs (10-2)

A game up on the rest of the conference, the Chiefs are still in the best position of any other team. Next Thursday’s game against the Chargers at home will likely be for the AFC West title and also provide more clarity when it comes to the race for a first-round bye. Kansas City was able to get past the Kareem Hunt this weekend, but that came against Oakland. We’ll see what happens moving forward, beginning this week against the Ravens.

2. Patriots (9-3)

Sunday’s win over the Vikings was one of the Patriots’ best of the season and kept them in the second spot. A lot can happen between now and the end of the season, but the Patriots need to take care of business in their own games. If they can win out, they have a very good chance of earning a top two seed and then need a little help to potentially get the No. 1 seed. The Patriots hold tiebreakers over the Chiefs and Texans, but things would get interesting with the Chargers, likely coming down to strength of victory.

3. Texans (9-3)

This is the team to look out for. They have won nine straight games and have a very easy schedule the rest of the way, with the toughest game being this week against the Colts. Given their schedule compared to the other top contenders, they are a dark horse to get the top seed if the teams ahead of them drop a game or two.

4. Steelers (7-4-1)

Sunday night’s loss to the Chargers at home was a killer. A win would have gone a long way, but now they are far from a lock to win the AFC North with Baltimore coming up the rear. Pittsburgh has a tough closing slate with games against the Patriots and Saints after this week’s matchup with the Raiders. Pittsburgh does luck out that Baltimore’s schedule is equally as tough, if not tougher.

5. Chargers (9-3)

The game in Kansas City in two weeks will determine a lot for the Chargers. A win, they have a good chance to win the division and potentially earn a first-round bye. A loss, they likely will be the No. 5 seed. But, if that is the case they will be a team nobody wants to play on wild card weekend. Sunday’s win against the Steelers without Melvin Gordon showed a lot.

6. Ravens (7-5)

Baltimore continues to hang on to the No. 6 seed, but things will get tough in the coming weeks with games against the Chiefs and Chargers in the next three weeks. We’ll know a lot more about them once those games are done, but dropping both could potentially put them on the outside of the playoff picture looking in.

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

It was a tough loss for the Colts Sunday in Jacksonville as that brought them back with the rest of the teams sitting at .500 and a game back of the Ravens for the final spot. Indianapolis has a tough stretch coming up with games against the Texans and Cowboys and so do the Dolphins with the Patriots and Vikings. Bottom line, any of these four teams still have a shot, it just comes down to how they play down the stretch.

Related: What Bill Belichick told Patriots in locker room after win over Vikings

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