As they made final preparations for their Monday night matchup with the Buffalo Bills, the New England Patriots received a helping hand from Ben Roethlisberger and the Pittsburgh Steelers.
The Steelers’ 20-19 win over the Ravens on Sunday knocked Baltimore from its perch atop the AFC standings and allowed the Patriots to take over first place in the conference.
New England’s grip on that spot is tenuous, though. The Patriots will need to score a road win over the favored Bills on Monday to stay there. Lose, and Bill Belichick’s club would drop to fifth place in the AFC, with Buffalo assuming the top spot in the AFC East.
In other playoff-relevant results from around the AFC, the Los Angeles Chargers pulled away from the Cincinnati Bengals to win 41-22; the Las Vegas Raiders fell to the Washington Football Team 17-15; the surging Indianapolis Colts routed the Houston Texans 31-0; the Miami Dolphins took down the New York Giants 20-9 for their fifth straight win; and the Kansas City Chiefs beat the Denver Broncos 22-9 on “Sunday Night Football.”
Here’s a look at the updated AFC playoff picture ahead of Monday night’s Patriots-Bills clash at Highmark Stadium:
1. New England Patriots (8-4; AFC East leader)
2. Tennessee Titans (8-4; AFC South leader)
3. Baltimore Ravens (8-4; AFC North leader)
4. Kansas City Chiefs (8-4; AFC West leader)
5. Buffalo Bills (7-4; first wild card)
6. Los Angeles Chargers (6-5; second wild card)
7. Cincinnati Bengals (6-5; third wild card)
In the hunt: Pittsburgh Steelers (6-5-1), Indianapolis Colts (7-6), Las Vegas Raiders (6-6), Cleveland Browns (6-6), Denver Broncos (6-6), Miami Dolphins (6-7)
And the NFC:
1. Arizona Cardinals (10-2; NFC West leader)
2. Green Bay Packers (9-3; NFC North leader)
3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (9-3; NFC South leader)
4. Dallas Cowboys (8-4; NFC East leader)
5. Los Angeles Rams (8-4; first wild card)
6. Washington Football Team (6-6; second wild card)
7. San Francisco 49ers (6-6; third wild card)
In the hunt: Philadelphia Eagles (6-7), Minnesota Vikings (5-7), Carolina Panthers (5-7), Atlanta Falcons (5-7), New Orleans Saints (5-7)
The No. 1 seed in each conference receives a bye to the divisional round. The other 12 postseason qualifiers will play on wild-card weekend.