Patriots

AFC Playoff Picture: Patriots face uphill battle for home-field advantage

AFC Playoff Picture: Patriots face uphill battle for home-field advantage

The New England Patriots have won 70 percent of their games this season. They're still a very good football team. But their path to a third consecutive Super Bowl appearance looks much rockier than in years past.

After Sunday's 34-10 road loss to the Tennessee Titans, the Patriots sit third in the AFC's overall standings behind the Kansas City Chiefs and Pittsburgh Steelers. If the season ended right now, they would need to play on Wild Card weekend, something they haven't done since 2009.

Of course, a lot can change over the final seven weeks of the NFL season. With the Patriots heading into their bye week, let's reset the AFC playoff picture, starting with a look at the overall standings. (An asterisk denotes a division leader.)

AFC Overall Standings

1. Kansas City Chiefs (9-1)*

2. Pittsburgh Steelers (6-2-1)*

3. New England Patriots (7-3)*

4. Houston Texans (6-3)*

5. Los Angeles Chargers (7-2)

6. Cincinnati Bengals (5-4)

In the hunt: Tennessee Titans (5-4), Miami Dolphins (5-5), Baltimore Ravens (4-5), Indianapolis Colts (4-5)

AFC Wild-Card Round Matchups (as of Nov. 13)

No. 3 Patriots vs. No. 6 Bengals

No. 4 Texans vs. No. 5 Chargers

So, how could the Patriots avoid a first-round matchup against the Bengals and possibly secure the AFC's top seed? Here's a look at the remaining schedules for Kansas City, Pittsburgh, and New England:

Kansas City: at Rams (in Mexico City), BYE, at Raiders, vs. Ravens, vs. Chargers, at Seahawks, vs. Raiders

Pittsburgh: at Jaguars, at Broncos, vs. Chargers, at Raiders, vs. Patriots, at Saints, vs. Bengals

Patriots: BYE, at Jets, vs. Vikings, at Dolphins, at Steelers, vs. Bills, vs. Jets

If the Patriots want the No. 1 seed, they'll likely need to win out -- and get some help. The Chiefs have just two games remaining against teams above .500 -- the 9-1 Rams and 7-2 Chargers -- and would need to drop two games or more to open the door for New England, which does hold the tie-breaker over Kansas City thanks to its Week 6 victory.

The Patriots have a decent shot at catching the Steelers for the No. 2 seed and at least getting a first-round bye. Pittsburgh has decently tough road matchups in Denver and Jacksonville, and a Week 15 NEw England victory over the Steelers could catapult them into the No. 2 spot.

This all assumes, of course, that the Patriots straighten out the issues that led to a 24-point loss to a middling Titans team. But as always in New England, the stakes are high: Bill Belichick's club is just 2-3 on the road this season and hasn't won an AFC Championship Game on the road since 2004.

Stephon Gilmore, Ty Law show mutual respect on Patriots' Israel trip

Stephon Gilmore, Ty Law show mutual respect on Patriots' Israel trip

Stephon Gilmore appreciates his New England Patriots history.

Patriots owner Robert Kraft brought a handful of New England players past and present to Israel this week, among them Gilmore and recent Patriots Hall of Fame inductee Ty Law.

Law rocked No. 24 while winning three Super Bowl titles in New England before Gilmore took the number in 2017. And Gilmore showed respect to his All-Pro predecessor Wednesday on Instagram while the two hung out in Israel.

It appears the respect is mutual, as Law added this reply in the comments:

"The torch is officially passed!! It’s your world now. Keep representing young gun. 💪🏾"

Gilmore certainly is representing No. 24 well. The 28-year-old earned first-team All-Pro honors last season during the best campaign of his career, limiting receivers to a ridiculous 44 percent catch rate.

Indeed, Gilmore has developed into the lockdown corner Law was during his 10 seasons with the Patriots and shows no signs of slowing down entering 2019.

Joining Gilmore and Law on Kraft's trip to Israel are current players David Andrews, Joe Thuney, Isaiah Wynn, Brandon King, and Nate Ebner, as well as ex-players Andre Tippett, Drew Bledsoe, Jerod Mayo and Vince Wilfork.

Kraft also will receive Israel's esteemed 2019 Genesis Prize on Thursday -- dubbed the "Jewish Nobel Prize" -- for his work combating anti-Semitism.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Celtics easily on your device.

Where does Patriots' Sony Michel rank among NFL RB1s entering 2019?

Where does Patriots' Sony Michel rank among NFL RB1s entering 2019?

Sony Michel enjoyed a tremendous rookie season for the New England Patriots and played a pivotal role in the team's run to a sixth Super Bowl championship.

The 24-year-old running back ran for 931 yards and six touchdowns in 13 regular season games, but his real value, however, was shown in the playoffs. Michel tallied 336 yards and a rookie postseason record six touchdowns in three games, culminating with 94 yards and the Patriots' only touchdown in their 13-3 win over the Los Angeles Rams in Super Bowl LIII.

After a stellar first season as a pro, where does Michel rank among the league's RB1s entering the 2019 season? Former NFL running back Maurice Jones-Drew ranked Michel at No. 11 in his rankings on NFL.com. Here's what MJD had to say about the Georgia product:

Michel showed he can be a bell cow during the postseason, with 71 carries for 336 yards and a rookie-record six rushing TDs in three games. He underwent a minor knee procedure in June, but Michel should still be the effective rusher he was in the postseason starting in September. Plus, I think Patriots OC Josh McDaniels will be more creative with the running game now that Rob Gronkowski is no longer on the team.

Jones-Drew put New York Giants rookie sensation Saquon Barkley atop his rankings, with Alvin Kamara of the New Orleans Saints, Le'Veon Bell of the New York Jets, Ezekiel Elliott of the Dallas Cowboys and Christian McCaffrey of the Carolina Panthers rounding out the top five, in that order.

The Patriots offense was carried by its ground game in the last season's playoffs, and we could see more of the same this coming season after New England selected talented Alabama running back Damien Harris in the third round of the 2019 NFL Draft. The Pats now have Michel, Harris, Rex Burkhead and James White leading a really impressive group of running backs that should make the team's offense a well-balanced unit next season.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Celtics easily on your device.