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Taking a look at the AFC playoff picture following Week 12

Lamar Jackson and the Ravens have moved from the No. 3 spot to the No. 1 spot over the past two weeks.Terrance Williams/Associated Press

This story originally appeared in Point After, our Patriots newsletter. Click here to receive it Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays.

Just when you thought the AFC playoff chase couldn’t get any crazier, we have arrived at Week 12, where the No. 1 seed (Tennessee) lost its footing and stumbled from the mountaintop, and the Ravens, Patriots, Raiders, and Broncos all took a step forward.

Keeping in mind there are seven available playoff spots this season, here’s a snapshot of all of the teams over .500 in the AFC and their respective playoff chances. (Not all teams have had their bye week yet, which makes for some uneven records.)


1. Ravens (8-3)

Up one from last week

Remaining schedule: at Steelers (5-5-1), at Browns (6-6), Packers (9-3), at Bengals (7-4), Rams (7-4), Steelers (5-5-1).

Games against teams .500 or better: 6

Opponents’ record: 39-27-2 (.574)

The skinny: The Ravens have taken advantage of the opportunity that was presented to them over the last two weeks to move from the No. 3 seed to the top of the AFC. It’s certainly not going to be easy the rest of the way — they have one of the toughest roads, when you look at the opponents’ strength of schedule — but you have to give Baltimore credit for what its been able to accomplish over the last two games.

2. Patriots (8-4)

Up one from last week

Remaining schedule: at Bills (7-4), at Colts (6-6), Bills (7-4), Jaguars (2-9), at Dolphins (5-7).

Games against teams .500 or better: 3

Opponents’ record: 27-30 (.474)

Mac Jones has had plenty of reasons to smile lately.Jim Davis/Globe Staff

The skinny: The first step in the Patriots’ four-game journey that will reveal if they are a championship caliber team was finished Sunday at about 4:05 p.m. when the 36-13 blowout of the Titans became official. With a pair of games against the Bills wrapped around a road date with the Colts looming, it certainly looks like New England is made of stronger stuff than most believed when it was sitting at 2-4. (Something to keep in mind — because the Patriots own a better conference mark than the idle Ravens, they can take over first place in the AFC next week with a win over Buffalo.)


3. Titans (8-4)

Down two from last week

Remaining schedule: Jaguars (2-9), at Steelers (5-5-1), Niners (6-5), Dolphins (5-7), at Texans (2-9).

Games against teams .500 or better: 2

Opponents’ record: 20-35-1 (.357)

The skinny: The Titans still have the easiest schedule the rest of the way, they should get A.J. Brown back, and they remain a mentally tough bunch built in the mold of their head coach. But after Sunday, it’s worth wondering if this year is the inevitable “small step back” that all good young teams seem to go through in the evolutionary process on the road to greatness.

4. Chiefs (7-4)

No change from last week

Remaining schedule: Raiders (6-5), at Chargers (6-5), Steelers (5-5-1), at Bengals (7-4), at Broncos (6-5).

Games against teams .500 or better: 5

Opponents’ record: 30-24-1 (.545)

What does the rest of the season have in store for Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs?Charlie Riedel/Associated Press

The skinny: Kansas City got to kick back and enjoy the bye. The Chiefs didn’t move in the standings, but given the fact that their schedule now looks a lot less imposing than it did a month or so ago, holding steady is probably a good thing.

5. Bengals (7-4)

No change from last week

Remaining schedule: Chargers (6-5), Niners (6-5), at Broncos (6-5), Ravens (8-3), Chiefs (7-4), at Browns (6-6).


Games against teams .500 or better: 6

Opponents’ record: 39-28 (.582)

The skinny: Cincinnati just might have put the Steelers out of their misery on Sunday, and (combined with the Browns loss) solidified its playoff ranking in the process. Who would have thought the Bengals would be capable of this kind of season? That Dec. 26 game between Cincinnati and Baltimore will have major playoff implications.

6. Bills (7-4)

Up one from last week

Remaining schedule: Patriots (8-4), at Buccaneers (8-3), Panthers (5-7), at Patriots (8-4), Falcons (5-6), Jets (3-8).

Games against teams .500 or better: 3

Opponents’ record: 37-32 (.536)

Josh Allen and the Bills host the Patriots on Monday night.Butch Dill/Associated Press

The skinny: Flash-forward to Dec. 12. Cue the announcers: “As the Patriots sit at home enjoying their bye, can Tom Brady help his old team gain an edge in the AFC playoff chase by knocking off the Bills and setting the stage for New England to take control in the AFC East?” Cue a record pre-Christmas run on TB12 merchandise in the Boston market as a thank you.

7. Chargers (6-5)

Down one from last week

Remaining schedule: at Bengals (7-4), Giants (4-7), Chiefs (7-4), at Texans (2-9), Broncos (6-5), at Raiders (6-5).

Games against teams .500 or better: 4

Opponents’ record: 32-34 (.485)

The skinny: The second you start to take the Chargers seriously as a potential playoff contender, they go and play like they did Sunday afternoon against the Broncos. Los Angeles is still in control of its own destiny, but in the super-competitive AFC West, the Chargers can’t afford the same sort of slip-up that led to their loss to Denver.



8. Raiders (6-5) Up four spots from last week

Remaining schedule: Washington (5-6), at Chiefs (7-4), at Browns (6-6), Broncos (6-5), at Colts (6-6), Chargers (6-5)

Games against teams .500 or better: 5

Opponents’ record: 36-32 (.529)

Can Ben Roethlisberger rally the Steelers after Sunday's ugly loss to Cincinnati?Emilee Chinn/Associated Press

The skinny: I’ve given up on the Raiders at least three different times this season, and they keep pulling the Undertaker sit-up routine. You’d think that a route to the playoffs would be impossible given their remaining schedule, but it’s entirely possible that at least two of their final four opponents will have given up on the season by the time they face Las Vegas. Given their track record to this point in the season, it’s also possible the Raiders lose out the rest of the way. Who knows with this team? Buy the ticket, take the ride.

9. Broncos (6-5) Up three from last week

Remaining schedule: at Chiefs (7-4), Lions (0-10-1), Bengals (7-4), at Raiders (6-5), at Chargers (6-5), Chiefs (7-4)

Games against teams .500 or better: 5

Opponents’ record: 33-32-1 (.505)

The skinny: Thanks in large part to their surprising win over the Chargers Sunday, the Broncos are still nosing around the AFC playoff chase. Not sure about their long-term chances, especially with two games against Kansas City left on the schedule, but there’s a path to 10 wins, which could keep them in the hunt for at least the next few weeks.


Christopher Price can be reached at christopher.price@globe.com. Follow him @cpriceglobe.