As the New England Patriots were arriving in western New York for their Monday night matchup with the Buffalo Bills, they found themselves in an unexpected, yet familiar spot.
Following the Baltimore Ravens’ 20-19 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday, the Pats now occupy the top spot in the AFC. The loss dropped the Ravens to 8-4 on the season, matching the Patriots’ 2021 record. However, New England currently owns the tiebreaker, based on their superior conference record.
Pending the outcome of Sunday night’s matchup between the Kansas City Chief and Denver Broncos), here are the latest seeing positions in the AFC:
1. New England Patriots* (8-4)
2. Tennessee Titans* (8-4)
3. Baltimore Ravens* (8-4)
4. Kansas City Chiefs* (7-4)
5. Buffalo Bills (7-4; wild card)
6. Los Angeles Chargers (6-5 wild card)
7. Cincinnati Bengals (6-5 wild card)
*indicates division leader
As a result, New England has returned to the number one position in the Conference since 2019.
At least…for now.
In order for the Pats to maintain their position atop the AFC standings, they must leave Orchard Park, New York with a victory over the Bills’ on Monday night.
The Patriots are entering Week Thirteen on a six-game win streak, establishing themselves as one of the hottest teams in the NFL. During their six-game winning streak, New England has averaged 35 points per game (211 points scored), and allowed an average of 11 points per game (63 points allowed). The Patriots have allowed just 13 points in the second half during that stretch..
Heading into Monday night’s pivotal matchup, the Pats own a half-game lead on the Billsin the race for the AFC East. In addition to attempting to maintain their divisional lead, they may also be looking for a bit of payback. In 2020, Buffalo swept the Pats in their season series for the first time since 1999; 24-21 in Week Eight at Orchard Park, and 38-9 in Week Sixteen at Foxboro. In the process, the Bills’ snapped the Patriots’ streak of eleven consecutive AFC East titles, capturing the division for the first time since 1995.
What It Means Moving Forward
As previously stated, a win would solidify the Patriots grip on the number one seed in the AFC, as well as the top spot in the AFC East. However, a loss on Monday night would drop New England to fifth in the AFC standings, with five weeks remaining in the 2021 regular season. Week Fourteen will mark New England’s bye week. Beginning on Saturday, December 18, the Pats will begin a five-game slate against the Indianapolis Colts (at Indy), the Buffalo Bills (home), Jacksonville Jaguars (home) and Miami Dolphins (in Miami Gardens). Under the expanded NFL postseason format, only the top finisher in each conference will receive a first-round playoff bye.
While a win is of utmost importance for so many reasons, a loss would not completely derail New England’s postseason hopes. Still, it is clearly evident that the Pats must continue to play their best football in each remaining Week on their schedule. As long as the Patriots combine great coaching with smart football on both sides of the ball, they will continue to remain among the AFC’s best teams heading into the 2021 postseason