NFL Playoff Picture: Where Patriots sit in crowded AFC after Week 8 originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston
There is no super-elite team running away with the No. 1 seed in the AFC playoff race as Week 8 of the 2021 NFL season draws to a close.
There are four teams in the conference that have just two losses, with several other franchises close behind them.
The New England Patriots saw their historic 11-year postseason appearance streak end last season, but they are very much in the mix this year thanks to a 27-24 win over the Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday.
New England is only a half game behind both the Chargers and Pittsburgh Steelers for a wild card spot, and a full game behind the Cincinnati Bengals for the No. 5 seed.
One upcoming Patriots game that could play a huge factor in the playoff race is a Week 10 matchup with the Cleveland Browns at Gillette Stadium. The Browns lost to the Steelers on Sunday -- their third defeat in the last four games. A win against the Browns in two weeks would give the Patriots a huge head-to-head tiebreaker advantage over Cleveland.
The Patriots also still have three games left against AFC teams ahead of them in the standings. Two of them are against the divisional rival Buffalo Bills (Week 13 and 16), and the other is at home versus the Tennessee Titans in Week 12.
Here's a look at the updated AFC playoff picture after the Week 8 games. Remember, only the No 1 seed gets a first-round bye.
In a Playoff Spot
1. Tennessee Titans, 6-2 (AFC South leader)
2. Las Vegas Raiders, 5-2 (AFC West leader)
3. Baltimore Ravens, 5-2 (AFC North leader)
4. Buffalo Bills, 5-2 (AFC East leader)
5. Cincinnati Bengals, 5-3 (First Wild Card)
6. Pittsburgh Steelers, 4-3 (Second Wild Card)
7. Los Angeles Chargers, 4-3 (Third Wild Card)
On the Bubble
8. New England Patriots, 4-4
9. Cleveland Browns, 4-4
10. Denver Broncos, 3-4
11. Kansas City Chiefs, 3-4
12. Indianapolis Colts, 3-5