NFL Playoff Picture: Patriots vault Jets as division race heats up originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston
The New England Patriots have two offensive touchdowns in their last three games and have greatly improved their playoff hopes in the process.
It's been that kind of season for the Patriots, who stole a 10-3 victory from the New York Jets on Sunday thanks to Marcus Jones' 84-yard punt return touchdown with five seconds remaining in regulation.
Sunday's dramatic win was huge for New England, which improved to 6-4 and vaulted the Jets in the AFC East standings by virtue of the head-to-head tiebreaker. The Patriots are just one game behind the Miami Dolphins, who had a Week 11 bye, and the Buffalo Bills, who rallied to beat the Cleveland Browns 31-23.
Here's an updated look at the AFC East standings entering Week 12.
Miami Dolphins, 7-3
Buffalo Bills, 7-3
New England Patriots, 6-4
New York Jets, 6-4
The Patriots still have three division games remaining -- two against the Bills (Week 13 and Week 18) and one against the Dolphins (Week 17) -- that could play pivotal roles in the AFC East race. But first, they face a massive test on Thanksgiving night against the NFC North-leading Minnesota Vikings.
Here a look at the remainder of the Patriots' regular-season schedule:
Week 12: at Minnesota Vikings (Thanksgiving Thursday)
Week 13: vs. Buffalo Bills (Thursday)
Week 14: at Arizona Cardinals (Monday)
Week 15: at Las Vegas Raiders (Sunday night)
Week 16: vs. Cincinnati Bengals (Saturday)
Week 17: vs. Miami Dolphins
Week 18: at Buffalo Bills
That's a pretty tough slate. But considering New England was out of a playoff spot just two weeks ago, fans should be pleased to see their team jump to the No. 6 seed in the AFC with seven games remaining.
The bad news for the Patriots is that they're in a very tough division, where three teams would be in the postseason if it started today. If Bill Belichick's club wants to move up any further in the standings, it will need to catch the Bills and Dolphins.
There's also little room for error: The Bengals and Jets both sit at 6-4 and could jump the Patriots in Week 12 with a win and a New England loss.
Here's a look at the updated AFC playoff picture through Week 11.
In a Playoff Spot
Kansas City Chiefs, 8-2 (AFC West leader)
Miami Dolphins, 7-3 (AFC East leader)
Tennessee Titans, 7-3 (AFC South leader)
Baltimore Ravens, 7-3 (AFC North leader)
Buffalo Bills, 7-3 (First Wild Card)
New England Patriots, 6-4 (Second Wild Card)
Cincinnati Bengals, 6-4 (Third Wild Card)
On the Bubble
8. New York Jets, 6-4
9. Los Angeles Chargers, 5-5
10. Indianapolis Colts, 4-6-1