NFL playoff picture: Patriots face uphill fight for No. 1 seed after loss to Texans

Nick Goss

The NFL playoff race saw a major shakeup in both conferences as a result of Week 13's exciting action.

The biggest storyline was the Baltimore Ravens overtaking the New England Patriots as the No. 1 seed in the AFC. Baltimore beat the San Francisco 49ers on a last-second field goal, which also dropped the NFC West team from the No. 1 seed in the conference all the way down to the No. 5 seed. You rarely see one result change the No. 1 seed in both conferences.

Let's take a look at the latest AFC and NFC playoff pictures entering Week 14. 

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AFC
1. Baltimore Ravens, 10-2, AFC North leader: Bye week

The Ravens are the new leader atop the AFC standings, and they probably won't give it up based on their remaining schedule. A Week 14 game versus the Bills won't be easy, but Baltimore's final three contests -- home to the New York Jets, at the Cleveland Browns and home to the Pittsburgh Steelers -- all are very winnable. ESPN's Football Power Index (FPI) model gives the Ravens a 68 percent chance to finish with the No. 1 seed, far ahead of the Patriots at 31 percent.

2. New England Patriots, 10-2, AFC East leader: Bye week
The dream of earning homefield advantage throughout the playoffs and forcing opponents to battle the harsh Foxboro weather conditions in January is fading fast for the Patriots. They lost the head-to-head tiebreaker with the Ravens in Week 9, so the defending champs must finish ahead of Baltimore to earn the No. 1 seed. New England's remaining schedule, which includes games against the Kansas City Chiefs and Buffalo Bills, also is harder than Baltimore's remaining slate. 

3. Houston Texans (8-4, AFC South leader) vs. 6. Pittsburgh Steelers (7-5, second wild card)
The Texans' win over the Patriots on Sunday night was their first against Tom Brady and Bill Belichick in 10 years. The victory also helped Houston maintain its lead one-game lead over the Tennessee Titans in the AFC South. The division race is far from over, however, because the Texans and Titans will play twice over the final four games of the regular season. The Texans are the No. 3 seed over the Chiefs because they own the head-to-head tiebreaker from their Week 6 win in Kansas City.

The Steelers earned a huge win over the Browns on Sunday to maintain their hold on the second wild card spot. They currently hold the tiebreaker over the Tennessee Titans based on a better win percentage (6-3 vs. 5-4) in conference games.

4. Kansas City Chiefs (8-4, AFC West leader) vs. 5. Buffalo Bills (9-3, first wild card)
The Chiefs crushed the Oakland Raiders 40-9 at home Sunday to take a two-game lead atop the AFC West standings. The division is Kansas City's to lose over the final quarter of the regular season. Luckily for the Chiefs, their Week 14 matchup versus the Patriots is their last game against a team that currently has a winning record.

The Bills made a statement on Thanksgiving with a convincing win over the Dallas Cowboys on the road, and it might actually be time to take them seriously. Buffalo has a tough Week 14 matchup against the Ravens, but it's only one game behind the Patriots for first place in the AFC East, which makes the Week 16 game in New England a pivotal one.

In the Hunt
7. Tennessee Titans, 7-5
8. Oakland Raiders, 6-6
9. Indianapolis Colts, 6-6
10. Cleveland Browns, 5-7



NFC
1. New Orleans Saints, 10-2, NFC South leader: Bye week
The Saints got revenge on the Atlanta Falcons with a Thanksgiving Day win over their NFC South rival. New Orleans will move into the No. 1 seed position if the Seahawks beat the Vikings to conclude Week 13. Next up for the Saints is a showdown with the 49ers in New Orleans.

2. Seattle Seahawks, 10-2, NFC West leader: Bye week
The Seahawks own the NFC West tiebreaker over the 49ers as a result of their head-to-head win in Week 10. This tiebreaker, combined with the Seahawks' win over the Minnesota Vikings on Monday night has vaulted Seattle up to the No. 2 seed. A Week 17 matchup with the 49ers in Seattle looms large, but right now, the Seahawks might be the most feared team in the NFC. How so? Well, Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson is a top MVP candidate, Seattle has a huge homefield advantage, and it has a 6-0 record on the road. 

3. Green Bay Packers (9-3, NFC North leader) vs. 6. Minnesota Vikings (8-4, second wild card)
The Packers pulled away late for a win over the New York Giants at a snowy MetLife Stadium. They own the NFC North tiebreaker as a result of their head-to-head win over the Vikings in Week 2. It's still possible for Green Bay to earn the No. 1 or 2 seed, although it lost the head-to-head tiebreaker to the 49ers in Week 12.

The Vikings still have a chance to win the NFC North with one game left to play against the Packers, who actually are the only team remaining on Minnesota's regular season schedule that has a winning record.

4. Dallas Cowboys (6-6, NFC East leader) vs. 5. San Francisco 49ers (10-2, first wild card)
The Cowboys suffered an embarrassing Thanksgiving defeat to the Bills but remain atop the NFC East after the Philadelphia Eagles lost to the lowly Miami Dolphins on the road Sunday. The Week 16 matchup between the Eagles and Cowboys likely will decide the division title and the No. 4 seed.

The 49ers hung tough with the Ravens but ultimately lost 20-17. The defeat proved to be a costly one for the 49ers because the Seahawks' win knocked San Francisco out of first place in the NFC West and down to the No. 5 seed. It's crazy to think the 49ers could go 13-3 and start the playoffs on the road in Wild Card Weekend, but it's very possible at this point.

In the Hunt
7. Los Angeles Rams, 7-5
8. Chicago Bears, 6-6

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NFL playoff picture: Patriots face uphill fight for No. 1 seed after loss to Texans originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

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