Patriots

AFC Playoff Picture: Should Patriots be worried about red-hot Texans?

AFC Playoff Picture: Should Patriots be worried about red-hot Texans?

What a difference two weeks makes.

On Nov. 13, the New England Patriots were reeling from a shocking loss to the Tennessee Titans and faced the very real possibility of having to play on Wild Card Weekend.

Order is slowly being restored, however: A Pittsburgh Steelers upset loss in Denver and a Patriots win in New York on Sunday vaulted New England back into the No. 2 seed and within one game of the AFC-leading Kansas City Chiefs.

If the regular season ended Tuesday, the Patriots would get a first-round playoff bye, a luxury they've enjoyed for the past seven postseasons.

The drama is far from over, however. Let's reset the AFC playoff picture entering Week 13. (An asterisk denotes a division leader.)

AFC Overall Standings

1. Kansas City Chiefs (9-2)*

2. New England Patriots (8-3)*

3. Houston Texans (8-3)*

4. Pittsburgh Steelers (7-3-1)*

5. Los Angeles Chargers (8-3)

6. Baltimore Ravens (6-5)

In the hunt: Indianapolis Colts (6-5), Miami Dolphins (5-6), Cincinnati Bengals (5-6), Denver Broncos (5-6), Tennessee Titans (5-6) 

AFC Wild-Card Round Matchups (as of Nov. 27)

No. 3 Texans vs. No. 6 Ravens

No. 4 Steelers vs. No. 5 Chargers

Key Week 13 Matchups

- Patriots vs. Minnesota Vikings

- Chiefs at Oakland Raiders

- Steelers vs. Chargers

- Texans vs. Cleveland Browns

With Kansas City playing the lowly Raiders, the Patriots need to beat a tough Minnesota Vikings squad this Sunday if they want a realistic shot at the No. 1 seed.

Steelers-Chargers has huge playoff implications, as Los Angeles can knock Pittsburgh even further down the AFC standings.

And don't sleep on those Texans, folks. Houston now has won eight in a row, and while few expect Bill O'Brien's club to win out, consider this: Four of its final five opponents are below .500 (the Cleveland Browns, New York Jets, Philadelphia Eagles and Jacksonville Jaguars), with the lone exception being the 6-5 Indianapolis Colts.

To state the obvious, New England needs to keep winning to stay in the mix for the No. 1 seed -- and to avoid getting caught from behind.

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Julian Edelman pumped for Patriots camp to begin: 'School's back in session'

Julian Edelman pumped for Patriots camp to begin: 'School's back in session'

Julian Edelman warmed up for training camp Saturday by putting on a clinic in near 100-degree heat.

The Patriots wide receiver helped conduct his football clinic for about 600 boys and girls at Lincoln-Sudbury High School about 40 minutes north of Foxboro. The Super Bowl MVP compared Pats camp, which begins Thursday at Gillette Stadium, to school being back in session.

“I’m extremely excited for the new year. This is a new team. Training camp coming up, this is kind of like when school’s back in session," Edelman told reporters. "We had summer break, [now] you get to see all the fellas. This is where you learn your team and learn each other and become accountable for each other and work hard together and create a consistency together."

The undisputed veteran of a Patriots receiving corps that is short on big names beside himself, Edelman, 33, is ready to mentor young receivers, such as first-round pick N'Keal Harry. 

“This is like the beginning shape form of your team, these next few weeks. It’s a crucial point. We put a lot of hard work in during the spring, and the next step to playing other teams, so it’s definitely exciting.”

With tight end Rob Gronkowski retired, Edelman takes center stage as Tom Brady's favorite target. He led all Pats receivers with 850 yards in the regular season despite an NFL-imposed PED suspension that kept him out of the first four games. His 10-catch, 141-yard performance against the Rams in Super Bowl 53 earned him game MVP honors.

Starting Thursday, he'll lead a receiver group that includes few familiar names: Phillip Dorsett returns, Braxton Berrios is back from the practice squad, Harry is a top draft pick and free-agent signees Demaryius Thomas, Dontrelle Inman and Maurice Harris are among those who've been added. 

Albert Breer: Two reasons why Tyreek Hill was not suspended

Albert Breer: Two reasons why Tyreek Hill was not suspended

Albert Breer gives his two reasons he thinks Tyreek Hill was not suspended by the NFL.

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.