Patriots

Patriots

The New England Patriots are on track to play in the Wild Card round of the AFC playoffs for the first time since 2009.

The Patriots dropped to the No. 3 seed with their 17-10 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field on Sunday.

The Pats entered Week 15 as the No. 2 seed, but with a 9-5 record they now sit one game behind the Houston Texans (10-4) for the No. 2 seed. New England does, however, own the tiebreaker over Houston as a result of its Week 1 win.

The last season during which the Patriots lost five or more games also was 2009. They went 10-6, hosted a home playoff game on Wild Card Weekend and were soundly beaten 33-14 by the Baltimore Ravens.

The Patriots still are the favorites to win the AFC East. They can clinch the division title with a Week 16 win over the Buffalo Bills at Gillette Stadium. 

Here are the remaining schedules for the Patriots and Texans.

PATRIOTS: vs. Bills, vs. Jets
TEXANS: at Eagles, vs. Jaguars

Here's how the AFC playoff picture looks entering "Sunday Night Football" on NBC:

PLAYOFFS
*1. Chiefs 11-3
2. Texans 10-4
3. Patriots 9-5
4. Steelers 8-5-1
*5. Chargers 11-3
6. Ravens 8-6
*Clinched postseason berth

IN THE HUNT
Colts 8-6
Titans 8-6
Dolphins 7-7
Browns 6-7-1

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NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE