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NFL playoff picture: Updated AFC, NFC seeds, matchups, standings after Week 14

NFL playoff picture: Updated AFC, NFC seeds, matchups, standings after Week 14

Sunday was a great day for the Baltimore Ravens, whose standing atop the AFC was strengthened with their victory over the Buffalo Bills and the New England Patriots losing to the Kansas City Chiefs.

Unless something drastic happens, the road to Super Bowl LIV in February will travel through M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore. The top two seeds in the NFC are still up for grabs after a wild day of exciting action, highlighted by the San Francisco 49ers' 48-46 win over the New Orleans Saints on the road.

Here's a look at the updated AFC and NFC playoff pictures based on the outcome of the Week 14 games. This story will be updated as more games conclude.

AFC
1. Baltimore Ravens, 11-2, AFC North leader: Bye week

The Ravens held on to their lead atop the AFC with a 24-17 road win over the Buffalo Bills. The Bills were the Ravens' toughest test remaining in the regular season. Baltimore has three very winnable games (vs. Jets, at Browns, vs. Steelers) left, making the AFC North leaders clear favorites to secure the No. 1 seed and homefield advantage throughout the playoffs.

2. New England Patriots, 10-3, AFC East leader: Bye week
The Patriots still have the No. 2 seed after losing to the Chiefs at home Sunday. Earning the No. 1 seed likely would require the Patriots to win all of their remaining games and for the Ravens to drop two of their last three matchups. The chances of that scenario playing out are pretty slim, though. New England's focus now must be to preserve its playoff bye -- the Chiefs and Bills are the top two threats for the No. 2 seed. The Patriots also have only a one-game lead over the Bills for first place in the AFC East, but these two teams will play in Foxboro in two weeks.

3. Kansas City Chiefs (9-4, AFC West leader) vs. 6. Pittsburgh Steelers (8-5, second wild card)
Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes earned his first career win versus the Patriots to improve Kansas City's standing in the AFC playoff race. The Chiefs' win, combined with the Texans' loss, moves Kansas City up from the No. 4 seed to the No. 3 seed. Houston owns the head-to-head tiebreaker over Kansas City if these teams finish with identical records. The Chiefs host the Denver Broncos, travel to play the Chicago Bears and finish at home against the Los Angeles Chargers. They also clinched the AFC West title Sunday.

The Steelers maintained their hold on the second wild card spot with a 23-17 win over the Arizona Cardinals. Pittsburgh owns the tiebreaker over Tennessee based on win percentage in conference games.

4. Houston Texans (8-5, AFC South leader) vs. 5. Buffalo Bills (9-4, first wild card)
The Texans followed their huge win over the Patriots in Week 13 with an awful performance versus the Denver Broncos on Sunday. Houston lost 38-24 and at one point trailed 21-0 in the second quarter. The Texans play the Tennessee Titans in two of their final three games of the season, and those matchups likely will decide the AFC South division. Both teams will be 8-5 entering Week 15, but Houston currently owns the tiebreaker over Tennessee based on win percentage in division games.

The Bills failed their toughest challenge of the season and lost at home to the Ravens despite a late comeback attempt. Buffalo remains in a great position to make the playoffs, but a wild card berth is the most likely scenario. The Bills still have a chance to win the AFC East, but that likely would require winning their final three games, including a Week 16 showdown versus the Patriots at Gillette Stadium.

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

NFC
1. San Francisco 49ers, 11-2, NFC West leader: Bye week
The 49ers went into New Orleans and earned a 48-46 victory behind four touchdown passes from quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. It easily was the 49ers' best win of the season, and it moved them back into the No. 1 seed ahead of the rival Seattle Seahawks. Seattle owns the head-to-head tiebreaker over San Francisco, and these division rivals will play once more in Seattle in Week 17.

2. Green Bay Packers, 10-3, NFC North leader: Bye week
The Packers took care of business at home with an unconvincing win against the Washington Redskins to maintain their one-game advantage over the Vikings for first place in the NFC North. Those two rivals will play once more in Week 16, and that game could have huge implications on NFC playoff seeding, as well as the division title race.

3. New Orleans Saints (10-3, NFC South leader) vs. 6. Minnesota Vikings (9-4, second wild card)
The Saints lost to the 49ers at home despite six touchdowns (five passing, one rushing) from quarterback Drew Brees. New Orleans dropped from the No. 1 seed to the No. 3 seed because it loses the tiebreaker to the Packers based on win percentage in conference games. The Saints already have clinched the NFC South title, but now a playoff bye is in jeopardy. 

The Vikings beat the Detroit Lions at home Sunday to keep the pressure on the Packers in the NFC North race.

4. Dallas Cowboys (6-7, NFC East leader) vs. 5. Seattle Seahawks (10-3, first wild card)
The Cowboys went into Chicago and disappointed on "Thursday Night Football" by losing to the Bears. Dallas' defense got roasted by Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky, and that tells you everything about the state of the Cowboys right now. Despite the loss, the Cowboys still lead the NFC East -- easily the worst division in the league -- and would host a Wild Card playoff game against the 10-win Seahawks if the season ended today. The league reportedly will not consider re-seeding despite the NFC East's struggles.

The Seahawks lost 28-12 in surprisingly awful fashion to the Rams on Sunday night. The loss dropped Seattle from the No. 2 seed to the No. 5 seed, but they still could win the NFC West by beating the 49ers at home in the regular season finale.

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

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Patriots Talk Podcast: Youth - that means draft success - will have to fuel Pats' reboot

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Patriots Talk Podcast: Youth - that means draft success - will have to fuel Pats' reboot

It's simple, really. If the Patriots are going to avoid staying home again after the Wild Card Round of the playoffs next season and seasons to come, they've got to get younger.

And to get younger, they've got to be more successful in the draft.

In the latest edition of Tom Curran's Patriots Talk Podcast, Curran and Phil Perry focus on the last time New England was sent home this early in the playoffs a decade ago and if there can be lessons learned from that roster reboot in 2010. 

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The biggest issue confronting the Pats this time around is their age, which averages 31.6 years old (a 42-year-old quarterback skews that a little, of course). By comparison, the Super Bowl 54 opponents, the Kansas City Chiefs (26.8) and the San Francisco 49ers (26.6) are considerably younger.

Click here to listen and subscribe to Tom Curran's Patriots Talk Podcast: 

The age factor is why, as Perry pointed out, "the pressure is on for them to hit not only in this 2020 draft, where they do have 12 picks, they have no second-round pick, but 12 shots at the dartboard. Last year, they had 10 [picks] and nine guys are still with the team.

"It's clear they have told themselves, 'We need to get younger. We need to start hitting here if we want to sustain this success.' The draft is the lifeblood of any team."

The 2018 team and its victory in the Super Bowl over the Rams last February worked to hide some of those flaws from recent low-yield draft classes.

"They had a great quarterback when they needed him. They had a Hall of Fame quarterback when they needed him. The defense looked tremendous we know how that story played out," Perry said. 

What kind of draft yield are we talking about to fuel the next generation of Patriots' success?

Curran goes on to rattle off the names from 2008-2012 drafts (Mayo, Slater, Edelman, Vollmer, Butler, Chung, Gronkowski, McCourty) that fueled the second half of the Pats dynasty.

"I have upwards of 30 names from 2008 to 2012 who were contributing players to the Patriots. I'm not even talking a little contributing, but massive contributing...," Curran said.  

There's also a discussion of how the uncertainty surrounding Tom Brady will impact the 2020 draft strategy. Listen and subscribe to Tom Curran's Patriots Talk Podcast on the NBC Sports Boston podcast network.

 

That 617 Life Podcast: Patriots' ties to a Pats-less Super Bowl

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That 617 Life Podcast: Patriots' ties to a Pats-less Super Bowl

The Patriots may have been missing from the NFL's Championship Sunday, but that didn't stop them from being mentioned and having their former personnel play prominent roles in the AFC and NFC Championship Games.

Whether it was former Pats linebacker Mike Vrabel coaching the Tennessee Titans against the Kansas City Chiefs or former New England quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo helping the San Francisco 49ers beat the Green Bay Packers to reach Super Bowl 54, the Patriots continue to be a talked-about team. 

On the latest edition of the "That 617 Life" podcast, Leroy Irvin, Shanda Foster and Cerrone Battle discussed how the Pats still loomed over the games on Sunday.

"You can not say anything bad about the Patriots because we are always constantly producing talent," Foster said. "I think this is the perfect testament to Bill Belichick."

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Battle said it speaks to the dominance of the Patriots the past two decades that connections to their former players and staff are now all over the league.

"That's what happens when you win," Battle said. "When you win, everybody wants a piece. They want your waterboy. Look at the new head coach of the Giants [Joe Judge, the former Patriots special teams and receivers coach]?... When you're good for 20 years eventually you're going to have your roots all over the league. After years and years of success, I'm not shocked by it."

Irvin and Foster said instead of lamenting a rare NFL Final Four without New England, Pats fans should be grateful.

"I wish Patriot Nation would grow up," Irvin said. "By that I mean I'm tired of seeing on social media people just crying and complaining, 'Oh it's boring without the Patriots.' We've had almost two decades of excellence. We're not there. Get over it."

Said Foster, "I was grateful more than anything. Filled with gratitude. We may never see a run like this again."

In his "Hot Takes and Cold Cuts" segment, Battle says those crowning the Super Bowl 54 opponents as the next dynasties might want to pump the brakes a little. 

"First thing I heard [after the games] is, 'Kansas City they're gonna be around for years and San Francisco they're gonna be around for a long time. They're gonna be contenders forever,' " Battle said. "That was the story all day. 'What is anybody gonna do about these teams next year?' What are they gonna do next year? Not even worry about them. Why? Because this is the Not For Long League. The NFL. Every year, the teams that were hot the year before are never guaranteed to be hot the year after that. Unless you're the Patriots."

The crew also gives their reactions to the new Aaron Hernandez Netflix documentary. It's all in this week's "That 617 Life" podcast on the NBC Sports Boston Podcast network. Click here to listen and subscribe.