The Patriots missed the playoffs in 2020 for the first time since 2008, but any thoughts of an extended decline in New England have gone out the window.
Monday night’s 14-10 win over the Bills was the seventh straight for the Patriots and they now find themselves with the top seed in the AFC playoff race. They’ve also moved to a comfortable lead over Buffalo in the AFC East heading into a bye week that will allow them to rest up ahead of the final four games of the season.
When one team goes up another must go down and Buffalo’s fortunes are cloudier than they’ve been at any other point this season. They’ve stumbled to a 3-4 record since starting 4-1 and now have a trip to Tampa on the schedule with the Steelers and Colts hot on their tails. Both of those teams have beaten the Bills this season, so it would be a good time for the defending AFC East champs to right the ship.
Here’s how the whole AFC playoff picture shapes up heading into Week 14:
1. Patriots (9-4) The Patriots have allowed 36 points over their last five games and they’ll have an extended period to come up with the right answers for Jonathan Taylor and the Colts in Week 15.
2. Titans (8-4) They looked out of gas in Week 12, but had last week off and they get a chance to get right against the Jaguars this weekend.
3. Ravens (8-4) Cornerback Marlon Humphrey‘s season-ending injury is a blow to their defense and they’ve only scored 61 points the last four weeks, so there’s a lot to figure out on both sides of the ball in Baltimore.
4. Chiefs (8-4) Sunday’s win was their fifth in a row, but the Chargers remain on their heels with a rematch on tap for Week 15.
5. Chargers (7-5) Their sloppiness allowed the Bengals back into Sunday’s game for a bit before they righted the ship and they should be able to keep the pressure on Kansas City by handling the Giants at home this weekend.
6. Bengals (7-5) They came into Week 13 off back-to-back blowouts, but made too many mistakes against the Chargers to extend their winning streak.
7. Bills (7-5) While the schedule has some soft spots after they face the Bucs, they may be chasing a playoff spot instead of trying to hold onto one at that point.
8. Steelers (6-5-1) Beating the Ravens jolted some life back into the Steelers and they can’t afford a letdown in Minnesota on Thursday night.
9. Colts (7-6) They’ll return from their bye week with a home game against the Patriots and a chance to take a big step forward in the playoff race.
10. Raiders (6-6) It will be difficult to see them making the postseason if they don’t win in Kansas City on Sunday.
11. Browns (6-6) Did the bye week provide a shot in the arm to the struggling offense in Cleveland?
12. Broncos (6-6) Any hope generated by their Week 12 win over the Chargers was doused by their loss to the Chiefs, but the Lions are visiting this weekend and that could keep some fires burning in Denver.
13. Dolphins (6-7) No one’s been able to stop the Dolphins from winning the last five weeks, but they’ll have to find a way to remain in a groove despite being off this week.
14. Jets (3-9) The offense looked OK for half of Sunday’s loss to the Eagles, but the defense and kicking game were subpar all day long.
15. Jaguars (2-10) There wasn’t much fight in them against the Rams, which is probably good news for the Titans as they head into this weekend.
16. Texans (2-10) Congratulations to the first team officially eliminated from playoff contention in the NFL this season.