BOSTON (CBS) — Sunday was a great day for the Baltimore Ravens, who strengthened their hold on the No. 1 seed in the AFC with a 24-17 win in Buffalo. Add in a Patriots loss to the Chiefs, and the Ravens now own a full game lead over New England in the AFC standings.
Barring a three-game collapse against inferior opponents by the Ravens, the road to Super Bowl LIV will go through Baltimore. New England would have to win out and the Ravens would need to lose two of their next three in order for the Patriots to jump back into the No. 1 seed, and the chances of both of those happening are pretty slim.
More concerning after Sunday’s loss to Kansas City is that New England’s first-round bye is in jeopardy should they stumble over the next three weeks. The Chiefs are just a game back at the moment, so hanging on to that much-needed bye should be New England’s focus going forward. It’s also remains pretty tight in the AFC East, with the Buffalo Bills just one game back. The Pats and the Bills will meet in Foxboro in two weeks, a contest that will bring a playoff feel to the Foxboro air.
Here’s a quick look at how the AFC standings shape up after Week 14:
1. Baltimore Ravens 11-2*
2. New England Patriots 10-3
3. Kansas City Chiefs 9-4**
4. Houston Texans 8-5
5. Buffalo Bills 9-4
6. Pittsburgh Steelers 8-5
In The Hunt
7. Tennessee Titans 8-5
8. Cleveland Browns 6-7
9. Oakland Raiders 6-7
10. Indianapolis Colts 6-7
*Clinched Playoff Berth
** Clinched Division
The Chiefs jumped ahead of the Houston Texans on Sunday, thanks to their win over the Pats and Houston’s embarrassing loss to the Denver Broncos. Should the Patriots end up the two-seed, and should the Chiefs remain No. 3 and win on Wild Card weekend, it would set up a Patriots-Chiefs rematch in the Divisional Round, which would make Frank Clark a happy dude. That is a much more difficult matchup for New England than a potential meeting with the Texans.
Here is a look at the remaining schedules for the Patriots, Ravens, Chiefs and Texans:
Ravens: vs. New York Jets (5-8), @ Cleveland (6-7), vs. Pittsburgh (8-5)
Patriots: @ Cincinnati (1-12), vs. Buffalo (9-4), vs. Miami (3-10)
Chiefs: vs. Denver (5-8), @ Chicago (7-6), vs. L.A. Chargers (5-8)
Texans: @ Tennessee (8-5), @ Tampa Bay (6-7), vs. Tennessee (8-5)
Those are three pretty easy matchups for the Ravens (though they did lose to the Browns earlier this season), and their Week 17 game against the Steelers may not mean anything to them when it arrives. The Patriots have a pair of easy ones against the Bengals and Dolphins, but a Week 16 matchup with the Bills in Foxboro may actually decide the AFC East — or at least stretch out the divisional race until the final Sunday of the season.
And if the Patriots stumble against Buffalo, Kansas City is in a good spot to potentially steal that first-round bye from them. Not ideal. The Pats essentially need to win out to hang on to that bye.
The Texans really didn’t do themselves any favors by following up their big win over the Patriots last weekend with a stinker against the Broncos. The surging Titans are right there with them in the AFC South (Houston owns the tiebreaker at the moment) and the two teams will meet twice over the final three weeks of the season. The Titans host the New Orleans Saints between those two matchups with the Texans.
The Ravens and Chiefs are the only teams to clinch a playoff spot at the moment, so there is a whole lot left to sort out in the AFC playoff picture with just three weeks left in the season.