How Do the Patriots Fit into the Playoff Picture After Week 12?

Mike DussaultSenior Analyst INovember 25, 2012

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - NOVEMBER 22: Wide receiver Julian Edelman #11 of the New England Patriots celebrates with teammate Wes Welker #83 after scoring a touchdown during the second quarter of a game at MetLife Stadium on November 22, 2012 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. The Patriots defeated the Jets 49-19. (Photo by Rich Schultz /Getty Images)
Rich Schultz/Getty Images

Not much has changed at the top of the AFC playoff race after Week 12, an unfortunate result of a top-heavy conference where the best teams keep escaping potential upsets unscathed.

Patriots fans got a treat watching their game against the Jets, but had the rug pulled out from them not once, but twice in games featuring the two teams ahead of them in the playoff race.

First, the Texans needed a fluke call and overtime to get out of Detroit without a second loss, and then the Chargers had another one of their signature collapses to allow the Ravens back into the game.

Giving up a 4th-and-29 on a screen pass with multiple missed tackles that would've sealed the game? Inconceivable! Patriots fans are definitely on the "Fire Norv" bandwagon now.

And even the Chiefs hung tough with the Broncos, and that's better than just about everyone was predicting.

Overall, the Patriots were unable to gain any ground this weekend, but they should be confident should they have to face anyone in the conference. No one looks unbeatable. 

AFC Playoff Standings (after Week 12)
1. Houston 10-1
2. Baltimore 9-2
3. New England 8-3
4. Denver 8-3
5. Indianapolis  7-4
6. Pittsburgh 6-5 
In the Hunt  
7. Cincinnati 6-5 
8. Miami 5-6 

Of course, things did just get a bit tougher as far as the Patriots chances at a bye go, though next week's game vs. Houston will have an impact, as will the following week's Ravens at Broncos tilt.

It's fairly certain now that if the Patriots don't get a bye they'll be playing the Steelers, Colts or Bengals. All are teams they would most likely beat in Foxboro, but at this point it's more about getting that extra week of to get healthy.

One extra week could make a huge difference as far as Gronk's health goes, so the Patriots will want to make a strong push for a bye.

If the Patriots do not lose another game and finish at 13-3, there should be a good chance that they will capture the second seed, but at this point a single loss will almost assure them of, at best, the third seed, and quite possibly the fourth.