The New England Patriots improved their position in the AFC playoff race with their 24-6 win over the Carolina Panthers on Sunday.
The victory extended the Patriots' win streak to three games and put them above the .500 mark for the first time all season at 5-4.
New England also moved into a playoff spot -- the third wild card as the No. 7 seed -- with the victory, overtaking the Cincinnati Bengals after their loss to the Cleveland Browns.
Speaking of the Browns, they are close behind the Patriots in the standings. Cleveland also owns a 5-4 record but doesn't hold the tiebreaker over New England. The Patriots will host the Browns next Sunday at Gillette Stadium in a crucial Week 10 matchup for both teams. The winner of that game will have the head-to-head tiebreaker.
The Patriots have more than a wild card spot to chase, though.
The AFC East title is all of a sudden a very realistic goal thanks to the Buffalo Bills' shocking 9-6 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday afternoon. The Bills lead the Patriots by only a half game in the division race, and these rivals still have two matchups on the schedule (Week 13 in Buffalo, Week 16 in New England).
Here's a look at the updated AFC playoff picture after the Week 9 games. This article will be updated through Monday night as more games end.
In a Playoff Spot
1. Tennessee Titans, 7-2 (AFC South leader)
2. Baltimore Ravens, 6-2 (AFC North leader)
3. Los Angeles Chargers, 5-3 (AFC West leader)
4. Buffalo Bills, 5-3 (AFC East leader)
5. Las Vegas Raiders, 5-3 (First wild card)
6. Pittsburgh Steelers, 5-3 (Second wild card)
7. New England Patriots, 5-4 (Third wild card)
On the Bubble
8. Kansas City Chiefs, 5-4
9. Cleveland Browns, 5-4
10. Cincinnati Bengals, 5-4
11. Denver Broncos, 5-4
12. Indianapolis Colts, 4-5