Patriots

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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Sources: Tom Brady and family preparing to leave New England

Sources: Tom Brady and family preparing to leave New England

Tom Brady doesn't officially become a free agent until the new league year begins on March 18, but the rumors are already flying about the New England Patriot quarterback's future.

A report surfaced earlier in the week that Brady and his family purchased a home in Greenwich, Connecticut. As NBC Sports Boston's own Tom E. Curran pointed out, that is false.

But that doesn't mean Brady isn't planning on making a move.

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Thursday night on "Arbella Early Edition," Gary Tanguay revealed that a source told him Brady and wife Gisele Bundchen are looking to leave New England.

"I was told today by a source the family is planning to leave the area," Tanguay said. "The priority this time is to let the kids finish school this year, then they're gone."

Tanguay's report doesn't mean Brady is definitely leaving New England, but talks of him and his family looking to live somewhere else continue to gain steam.

If Brady indeed is moving on from New England and looking to start a new chapter, some of that could do with his desire to finally make the money he's worth in free agency.

According to Tanguay, Brady is "embarrassed" by the number of quarterbacks in the league that make more than him and has been fed up about it dating back to the summer, before he signed his contract extension.

Thirteen quarterbacks, including Brady's former backups Jimmy Garoppolo and Jacoby Brissett, make more on average annually than the six-time Super Bowl champion according to overthecap.com.

The truth is, we won't know for certain what's going through Brady's mind until the ink is on paper for the 42-year-old's new contract. Until then, it's going to be a stressful offseason for Patriots fans.

Curran: Is this newfound time a silver lining for Patriots?

Patriots Talk Podcast: What exactly are the Patriots up to right now?

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NBC Sports Boston Illustration

Patriots Talk Podcast: What exactly are the Patriots up to right now?

Needless to say, it's unusual for the New England Patriots to have so much down time in January. Typically, they're playing in the AFC Divisional Round. And the AFC Championship Game. And often, the Super Bowl.

But this year, they were eliminated in the Wild Card Round for the first time since 2009. And now, they have a lot of time on their hands.

And while their early playoff exit was surely discouraging, the Patriots could stand to benefit from this extra time.

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On the latest episode of the Patriots Talk Podcast, Tom E. Curran and Phil Perry discussed how the Patriots could utilize the extra time and the positive impact it could have on the organization.

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Curran pointed out that because the team has so often been playing into February, their already thin staff has been stretched thin come draft season, which explains why the team has had some draft misses in recent seasons.

Really, it comes down to 312 days of prepreparation were sacrifice. And so for a bare bones organization in terms of both front office and coaching staff -- these guys have had shorter offseasons by a month on average than any other team in the NFL.

So on one hand, it's remarkable and it's a high-class problem. On the other hand, isn't it somewhat inevitable that you might have some draft swings and misses?

Perry agreed with Curran and brought up that the fact that the extra time off will give Belichick a real chance to thoroughly evaluate his roster.

I think for a team that is looking at a reboot, one of the sort of ironic things about that is that now you have time to really think that through in more detail and not to say that Bill Belichick isn't planning or looking at his roster, how it's constructed, how the contracts set up and trying to plan ahead. I'm sure he is doing that to a certain extent.

But you can only spend so much time on those things when you're getting ready for the divisional round, the AFC Championship Game every year, the Super Bowl every other year.

This surely makes sense and is definitely a positive for the Patriots. Perhaps with that extra time, Belichick can find a way to retain Tom Brady while significantly upgrading his supporting cast.

For more on the Patriots offseason plans, potential changes in their front office, and predictions for the AFC and NFC Championship Games, check out the latest episode of the Patriots Talk Podcast, which drops every Tuesday and Thursday as a part of the NBC Sports Boston podcast network.