It didn’t take long, but the New England Patriots are back atop the AFC.

Just one week ago, the Patriots were looking up at both the Cincinnati Bengals and the Denver Broncos. But a convincing Week 14 win combined with a whole lot of luck helped the Patriots regain the top seed in the AFC.

New England’s win paired with Denver’s loss to Oakland and Cincinnati losing to Pittsburgh means the Patriots now control their own destiny. Even better for New England is the Patriots are all but certain to get first-round bye as Denver and Cincinnati still play each other in Week 16, meaning one of those teams will end the season with at least four losses. Meanwhile, the Patriots sit at 11-2 with a very winnable slate (Tennessee, New York, Miami) to finish the season.

Here’s what the NFL playoff picture looks like after Week 14.*


First-round byes

1. New England Patriots (11-2)
2. Cincinnati Bengals (10-3)

Wild-card round matchups (Jan. 9-10)

No. 6 New York Jets (8-5) at No. 3 Denver Broncos (10-3)
No. 4 Kansas City Chiefs (8-5) at No. 4 Indianapolis Colts (6-7)

Notes: Pittsburgh, despite beating up on Cincinnati to improve to 8-5, still sit on the outside … The Steelers and Broncos play in Week 15 with plenty of implications … Houston missed a golden opportunity to take over the AFC South but will get another chance this week against Indianapolis with first place in that sorry division on the line


First-round byes

1. Carolina Panthers (13-0)
2. Arizona Cardinals (11-2)

Wild-card round matchups (Jan. 9-10)

No. 6 Minnesota Vikings (8-5) at No. 3 Green Bay Packers (9-4)
No. 5 Seattle Seahawks (8-5) at No. 4 Washington Redskins (6-7)

Notes: Seattle moved into fifth seed, which is big as it would mean a first-round trip to the NFC East winner as opposed to the NFC North winner (Green Bay or Minnesota) … Arizona will have a fight on its hand for the No. 2 seed with Philadelphia, Green Bay and Seattle to finish the season … The Giants can keep pace in the NFC East with a win Monday night in Miami

*The New York Giants play the Miami Dolphins on “Monday Night Football”

Playoff scenarios via
Thumbnail photo via Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports