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NFL 2015 season AFC playoff picture: Bengals keeping Steelers alive in division race

It's time for a look at the latest playoff standings in the AFC.

Christian Petersen/Getty Images

The Cincinnati Bengals have now lost two straight games and are in danger of not only failing to get a first-round bye in the AFC playoffs, but are also keeping the Pittsburgh Steelers alive in the AFC North race.

Because of the Bengals' loss to the Arizona Cardinals Sunday night, they now hold just a two-game lead over the Steelers with six games to go and Pittsburgh coming off a bye week. The good news is the Steelers play at Seattle in Week 12, so if the Seahawks can defend their turf and the Bengals beat the St. Louis Rams this week, Cincy goes right back to having a commanding three-game lead with five games to play.

In Week 13, Pittsburgh will host the Colts while the Bengals head to Cleveland for a divisional clash with the Browns. If we assume Cincinnati and Pittsburgh each win those games, it would set up for a huge Week 14 matchup in the Queen City. After the Bengals went into Pittsburgh and won, they should feel good about their chances here, but nothing is ever certain in this rivalry.

As for the rest of the conference, the New England Patriots are still on the top of the AFC with a 9-0 record heading into their matchup with the 5-4 Buffalo Bills. The Pats already won with relative ease in Buffalo earlier this season, so they should be able to hold serve at home this time around. As long as they do, the Pats will stay atop the AFC now holding a  two-game lead for the No. 1 seed and home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs.

That means the Bengals would have to win two more games than the Patriots in the final six games to get the top spot. It's hard to see any scenario in which that happens with the Patriots, but stranger things have happened.

As for the Denver Broncos, they're now tied with the Bengals for the No. 2 seed in the AFC. However, Cincinnati holds the tiebreaker for now by way of a better conference record (7-1) than the Broncos (4-2). Adding to this, Cincinnati plays NFC teams in two of their final six games, whereas Denver plays all AFC teams the rest of the way. Two of those games for the Broncos come against New England and at Pittsburgh.

It's looking more and more like that Week 16 clash on Monday Night Football between the Bengals and Broncos will be the deciding factor for the No. 2 seed and a first-round bye in the AFC.

With that said, here is the latest AFC playoff picturevia ESPN:

W

L

PCT

CONF

SOS

REASON

1 Patriots

9

0

1.000

6-0

.461

AFC East Champ

2 Bengals

8

2

.800

7-1

.455

AFC North Champ
Wins tie break over Denver based on best win percentage in conference games.

3 Broncos

8

2

.800

4-2

.450

AFC West Champ

4 Colts

5

5

.500

4-3

.592

AFC South Champ
Wins tie break over Houston based on head-to-head win percentage.

5 Steelers

6

4

.600

3-4

.485

--

6 Bills

5

4

.556

5-3

.517

--

7 Chiefs

5

5

.500

4-2

.580

Wins tie break over New York Jets and Houston based on best win percentage in conference games.

8 Texans

5

5

.500

4-3

.540

Wins tie break over New York Jets based on head-to-head win percentage.

9 Jets

5

5

.500

4-4

.469

--

10 Raiders

4

6

.400

4-3

.480

Wins tie break over Miami and Jacksonville based on best win percentage in conference games.

11 Jaguars

4

6

.400

4-4

.541

Wins tie break over Miami based on head-to-head win percentage.

12 Dolphins

4

6

.400

2-5

.474

--

13 Ravens

3

7

.300

2-5

.490

--

14 Browns

2

8

.200

2-6

.500

Wins tie break over Tennessee and San Diego based on best win percentage in conference games.

15 Chargers

2

8

.200

1-5

.490

Wins tie break over Tennessee based on best win percentage in conference games.

16 Titans

2

8

.200

0-6

.505

--