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Tracking the AFC playoff picture: Patriots maintain one-game lead in AFC East

Thanks to Buffalo’s loss to Baltimore, the Patriots maintained their one-game lead in the AFC East.


For the second straight season the Patriots have dropped consecutive games in December, this time coming out on the short end of a 23-16 decision to the Chiefs at Gillette Stadium, snapping the team's 21-game home winning streak. There was some good news in the AFC playoff picture, however, as both the Bills and Texans lost, allowing the Patriots to remain ahead of both in the jockeying for postseason position.

First and foremost, the Bills loss to the Ravens allowed New England to remain atop the AFC East standings at 10-3, a game ahead of 9-4 Buffalo. The Ravens (11-2) win means Baltimore is now a game ahead of the Patriots and in control of the tiebreaker. That means the Ravens will need to lose two of their remaining three games for the Patriots to have a chance at the top seed.

Houston's (8-5) loss keeps the Patriots two games ahead of the Texans while the Chiefs (9-4) are now just a game back. Both hold the tiebreaker on New England, so the Patriots may need to win out in order to hold off Kansas City for the second seed and last first-round bye.

Things are beginning to tighten up in the battles for the byes, and the suddenly struggling Patriots will need to turn things around in order to avoid playing on wild card weekend for the first time since 2009. If New England takes care of business and wins the final three games, it will clinch no worse than the second seed. The Bills might have a chance to grab a share of the division lead in two weeks depending on the results of the Week 15 games, but the Patriots would still own the tiebreaker over Buffalo based on better record versus common opponents.

A Patriots loss would allow the Chiefs the opportunity to grab the 2 seed by winning out, and two losses would open the door for the Bills to grab the division title. Lots of possibilities to sort through with three weeks left.

Here's a look at the current playoff structure in the AFC with the remaining schedule for each team.

Table inside Article
Baltimore 11-2 3-1 7-2 NYJ, at Cle., Pit.
New England 10-3 4-0 6-3 at Cin., Buf., Mia.
Kansas City 9-4 4-0 7-3 Den., at Chi., LAC
Houston 8-5 3-1 7-3 at Ten., at TB, Ten.
Buffalo 9-4 3-1 6-3 at Pit., at NE, NYJ
Pittsburgh 8-5 3-2 5-3 Buf., at NYJ, at Bal.
Tennessee 8-5 2-2 6-4 Hou., NO, at Hou.

Pittsburgh's edge in conference record gives the Steelers the 6 seed over Tennessee.

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