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After sluggish start, where do Patriots stand in very early AFC playoff picture?

Ryan Hannable
October 16, 2018 - 12:44 pm
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While following Week 6 is still early in the season, it's never too early to look at the AFC playoff picture.

The Patriots got off to a slow start at 1-2, but have won three straight and are now 4-2 and leading the AFC East. Their win Sunday over the Chiefs was huge as if they lost, they would have fallen three games out of first place in the AFC, and four games including the tiebreaker.

Here’s a look at where things stand in the conference.

1. Chiefs (5-1)

As has been the case in recent years, the Chiefs are off to another fast start, but are coming off their first loss of the season on Sunday night to the Patriots. Their offense is among the most explosive in football, but their defense remains a liability. Several defensive players will be returning from injury soon, but it’s hard to say how big of difference they will make. Kansas City will be tested again this week with another primetime game against the Bengals.

2. Patriots (4-2)

Sunday night’s win was huge as it keeps them in the running for the No. 1 overall seed. Falling three games back, four including the tiebreaker, after Week 6 would have been very hard to overcome. After a slow start it is fair to say the Patriots are back to what many expected them to be and should continue to get better as the year goes on. Sunday’s game did show how vital homefield advantage is for them, as it’s hard to imagine them right now being able to win a playoff game at Arrowhead Stadium.

3. Bengals (4-2)

Cincinnati may be one of the biggest surprises in the league this year as they are off to a solid start and right now would win the AFC North. This will be arguably the most competitive division the rest of the year with the Bengals, Steelers and Ravens all beating up on one another. They will see just how good they really are against the Chiefs this Sunday night, which may be a good spot for them since Kansas City is coming off games against the Jaguars and Patriots. Teams are 0-5 this year the week after facing New England.

4. Titans (3-3)

The AFC South is one of the worst divisions in the league right now and it would appear they will only be getting one representative in the playoffs — whoever wins the division. Right now, Tennessee is at the top, but the Texans are playing better than early on and the Jaguars at least on paper are the best team in the division. We’ll see how this division shakes out as time goes on.

5. Chargers (4-2)

Los Angeles may be one of the most underrated teams in football with its only two losses coming to the Chiefs and Rams. It has always had a solid offense with Philip Rivers leading the way, but this year its defense has come into its own. Kansas City has been known to fade as the season goes along, which means the division title is still in play. The Chargers don’t play another division game until Nov. 18, which is interesting.

6. Ravens (4-2)

Baltimore’s defense is back to the way it played several years ago and that has been a major for its success this season. As was said with the Bengals, the AFC North will beat up one another, but it should be expected the division will get at least two playoff teams. While the Steelers are out of the current playoff standings, it’s expected that will change in the coming weeks, especially with Le’Veon Bell potentially returning.

Currently out

7. Dolphins (4-2)
8. Steelers (3-2-1)
9. Texans (3-3)
10. Jaguars (3-3)

As of now, these teams are not in the playoffs, but that will likely change with more than half the season to go. Of these teams, the Steelers and Jaguars seem most likely to make runs. Pittsburgh has had its issues, but if things calm down it has the talent to compete with anyone. Same goes for Jacksonville, who has really struggled since the win over the Patriots in Week 2.

Related: Mack injury could be big for Patriots Sunday vs. Bears

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