What does Patriots' path to Super Bowl LIV look like? Let's play out the AFC

Darren Hartwell

Alas, the New England Patriots are mortal.

A perfect season is off the table after last Sunday's loss to the Baltimore Ravens. But the Patriots still are in the AFC's catbird seat at 8-1 entering their bye week.

So, is another Super Bowl run in the cards for Bill Belichick and Tom Brady?

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With 10 days to kill before New England's next game, we played out the entire remaining schedule of every AFC contender to predict how the conference playoff picture will shake out -- and if any team can knock the Patriots off their perch.

It's prediction time.

No. 1 seed: New England Patriots

Final record: 13-3
Wins: vs. Dallas, at Houston, at Cincinnati, vs. Buffalo, vs. Miami
Losses: at Philadelphia, vs. Kansas City

The Patriots drop another road game coming out of the bye and fall to Patrick Mahomes' Chiefs in a Week 14 shootout. But wins over an awful Bengals team and their downtrodden AFC East competitors (Bills and Dolphins) help them edge Kansas City for the AFC's No. 1 seed.

No. 2: Kansas City Chiefs

Final record: 12-4
Wins: at Tennessee, vs. Oakland, at New England, vs. Denver, at Chicago, vs. Los Angeles Chargers
Losses: at Los Angeles Chargers

The AFC's top seed is decided two weeks from now, when the Chargers upset Mahomes and Co. for the second time in as many games. Kansas City wins out from there, but that fourth loss seals its fate as the No. 2 seed.

No. 3: Baltimore Ravens

Final record: 11-5
Wins: at Cincinnati, vs. Houston, vs. New York Jets, at Browns
Losses: at Los Angeles Rams, vs. San Francisco, at Buffalo

The Ravens ride the Patriots victory wave to two more wins -- then stumble during a brutal three-game stretch against the Rams, 49ers and Bills. Baltimore wins out from there, but its schedule proves too difficult to earn a first-round playoff bye.

No. 4: Houston Texans

Final record: 10-6
Wins: vs. Indianapolis, vs. Denver, at Tampa Bay, vs. Tennessee
Losses: at Baltimore, vs. New England, at Tennessee

The Texans lose two of their next three and stumble on the road against the Titans in Week 15, but earn a revenge win over Tennessee in Week 17 to barely hold on for the No. 4 seed.

No. 5: Buffalo Bills

Final record: 10-6
Wins: at Cleveland, at Miami, vs. Denver, vs. New York
Losses: at Dallas, vs. Baltimore, at Pittsburgh, at New England

The Bills push to 9-2 before their schedule finally catches up to them. Four consecutive losses put Buffalo's playoff hopes in jeopardy, but a win over the Jets in Week 17 helps the Bills earn a No. 5 seed by virtue of a tiebreaker win over the Colts.

No. 6: Indianapolis Colts

Final record: 10-6
Wins: vs. Miami, vs. Jacksonville, vs. Tennessee, at Tampa Bay, vs. Carolina
Losses: at Houston, at New Orleans, at Jacksonville

The Colts win four of their next five games and have a home Wild Card game in their sights. But it all comes apart in Week 17, as the AFC South rival Jaguars defend their turf to drop the Colts all the way to a No. 6 seed.

Just missed: Oakland Raiders (9-7), Los Angeles Chargers (8-8)

AFC Wild Card Round

- No. 3 Ravens defeat No. 6 Colts
- No. 4 Texans defeat No. 5 Bills

The Colts' middling defense can't contain the dynamic Lamar Jackson in Baltimore, while Deshaun Watson wills the Texans to a win at home over a feisty Buffalo team.

AFC Divisional Round

- No. 1 Patriots defeat No. 4 Texans
- No. 3 Ravens defeat No. 2 Chiefs

Watson is a handful for the Patriots, but New England, as always, finds a way to win at home in the divisional round. The same can't be said for the Chiefs, as Jackson exploits Kansas City's pourous defense to lead the Ravens to a road upset.

AFC Championship Game

- No. 1 Patriots defeat No. 3 Ravens

Bill Belichick's club made a lot of mistakes in its Week 9 loss to Baltimore. It doesn't make those same mistakes at Gillette Stadium, as the Patriots edge the Ravens to punch their ticket to a fourth straight Super Bowl.*

*Bonus prediction: Patriots fans get their dream Super Bowl LIV matchup in Jimmy Garoppolo and the San Francisco 49ers. Jimmy G nearly pulls off the upset, but Tom Brady mounts a game-winning drive to defeat the team he grew up watching.

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What does Patriots' path to Super Bowl LIV look like? Let's play out the AFC originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

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