Patriots’ lead shrinks in AFC East; remain above Titans in conference

The Bills and Dolphins walked away with wins on Sunday while the Titans lost to the Steelers.

The Bills celebrated the ending of their losing skid and moved a game closer to the Patriots in the AFC East standings. (AP Photo/Adrian Kraus)

Sunday was a bit of a good news, bad news day for the Patriots.

For starters, they woke up coming off a 27-17 loss to the Colts the night before, dropping their record to 9-5 on the season. With the loss, they also dropped from the top spot in the AFC as the 10-4 Chiefs are now the conference leader.

The loss didn’t affect the Patriots’ spot in the AFC East standings as neither the Bills nor Dolphins were close enough in the standings to even tie them entering Sunday. But both teams moved a bit closer to New England on Sunday.

In Buffalo, the Bills were able to end their two-game slide by decisively defeating Cam Newton and the Panthers, 31-14. With the win, the Bills are 8-6 on the season, moving them just a game back of the Patriots entering next week’s matchup.


In Miami, the Dolphins got off to a slow start but were able to string together a comeback to beat the Jets, 31-24. With the win, the Dolphins extended their win streak to six games and improved to 7-7. Miami is still alive in the AFC East chase even if its odds to win it are extremely slim. The Dolphins will get a chance to beat the Patriots a second time this season in Miami in Week 18.

By having the best record between the three teams, the Patriots still control their own destiny to win the division. But next week’s matchup against the Bills is as close to a must-win situation as it gets if the Patriots want to keep their playoff hopes alive. While the Patriots and Bills would have even records if Buffalo wins, the Bills would hold the tiebreaker as they would have the better divisional record.

On the flip side, the Patriots can make life a lot easier if they beat the Bills. A win in Week 16 means they would just need to win one of their last two games or for the Dolphins to lose one of their last three games.

The good news for the Patriots on Sunday was that no one passed them in the overall AFC standings. The Titans entered the day with a 9-4 record and a chance to move into first place in the conference with a win over the Steelers. But after taking a 13-3 lead, Pittsburgh scored 16 unanswered points to win. Due to their Week 12 win over the Titans, the Patriots remain ahead in the conference standings with both teams at 9-5.


Baltimore had a chance to improve to 9-5 with a win over Green Bay, but its late comeback attempt fell short. The Ravens lost, 31-30, opting to go for two points to take the lead after scoring a touchdown in the final minute. They didn’t get it are now 8-6. Even if the Ravens won on Sunday, the Patriots would still be ahead of them in the AFC standings. The Patriots hold the tiebreaker over the Ravens by holding a better conference record (7-2 vs. 5-5), so they sit in a good spot over them entering the final three weeks of the season.

Looking ahead, the Patriots will need the Chiefs to lose once and to win out themselves if they want home-field advantage and the first-round bye in the playoffs. They control their own destiny though for the second seed in the conference, which would give them home playoff games in the first round and the second round, if they make it that far.


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