AFC Playoff Picture: Crucial Week 15 matchups could shake up seeding


The AFC playoff race just got a lot more interesting.

The New England Patriots and Pittsburgh Steelers made sure of that Sunday after both suffering heartbreaking losses that hampered their postseason aspirations: The Patriots now are a long shot to catch the top-seeded Kansas City Chiefs, while the Steelers are in danger of missing the playoffs altogether.

A lot could change over the final three weeks, though -- especially in Week 15, which features two separate matchups between top-five teams in the AFC.

To see how much the Patriots could climb (or fall) down the stretch, let's reset the AFC playoff picture entering Week 15. (Asterisks denote division leaders.)

AFC Overall Standings

1. Kansas City Chiefs (11-2)*

2. New England Patriots (9-4)*

3. Houston Texans (9-4)*

4. Pittsburgh Steelers (7-5-1)*

5. Los Angeles Chargers (10-3)

6. Baltimore Ravens (7-6)

In the hunt: Indianapolis Colts (7-6), Miami Dolphins (7-6), Tennessee Titans (7-6), Denver Broncos (6-7), Cleveland Browns (5-7-1), Cincinnati Bengals (5-8)

Remaining Schedules

Chiefs: vs. Chargers (Thursday night), at Seahawks, vs. Raiders

Patriots: at Steelers, vs. Bills, vs. Jets

Texans: at Jets, at Eagles, vs. Jaguars

Steelers: vs. Patriots, at Saints, vs. Bengals

Chargers: at Chiefs, vs. Ravens, vs. Broncos

Ravens: vs. Bucs, at Chargers, vs. Browns

The two massive matchups to watch this week: Chargers-Chiefs on "Thursday Night Football" and Patriots-Steelers at 4:25 p.m. ET on Sunday.

Los Angeles has a better record than New England, but Pats fans still want them to beat Kansas City. If the Chiefs lose that game and their season finale against the Raiders, the Patriots have an outside shot at the No. 1 seed.

And even if the Chargers win the AFC West and snatch the top seed, a Patriots trip to the StubHub Center sounds a lot better than playing in Arrowhead Stadium in the AFC Championship Game.

Meanwhile, New England can play spoiler in Pittsburgh, as the Steelers would drop out of the AFC North lead with a loss and a Ravens win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

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