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AFC playoff picture after Week 12: Bengals keeping bye week hopes alive with five games to play

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The Bengals and Broncos are now firmly in the mix for the No. 1 overall seed in the AFC playoffs after the Patriots suffered their first setback of 2015.

Andy Lyons/Getty Images

NFL Week 12 left a major shakeup atop the AFC standings that may ultimately have a big impact on how the playoffs ultimately shake out.

The first big news came in Denver where the previously undefeated New England Patriots lost for the first time this season in overtime to the Broncos. It was a game in which New England led 21-7 in the fourth quarter, but collapsed under the pressure of Mile High with a strong snowfall affecting the game. Not only are the Pats no longer undefeated, but sitting at 10-1 overall, the No. 1 seed is no longer a guarantee for New England, though they still are in first place.

With the Broncos and Cincinnati Bengals sitting at 9-2, they're both nipping at the Pats' heels for the top overall seed and one of the two first-round byes. Denver now holds a head-to-head tiebreaker over New England, meaning if they finish with equal records, the Broncos get the higher seed.

Speaking of the Bengals, they bounced back from a two-game losing streak with a dominant 31-7 win over the St. Louis Rams. Cincinnati is now right back in the mix for the AFC's top seed and are tied with Denver for the No. 2 seed. In fact, if the playoffs began today, the Bengals would get the No. 2 seed based on Cincinnati having a better AFC conference record (7-1) than Denver (5-2).

However, the team that claims that second first-round bye and perhaps even the No. 1 seed will likely be decided in Week 16 on Monday Night Football when the Bengals head to Denver for a primetime clash with the Broncos. It won't be easy, but the path to a first-round bye is right there for the Bengals' taking.

For whoever does not get one of the byes, it looks like the Houston Texans, Indianapolis Colts, New York Jets, Pittsburgh Steelers, and Kansas City Chiefs are the viable contenders for one of the two Wild Card spots. Because of the Texans' four-game winning streak and Chiefs' five-game winning streak, they've both surged past the Steelers in the playoff standings after the Steelers lost to the Seahawks on Sunday.

Bengals fans would surely rather see the Chiefs or even Texans as the ones coming to Paul Brown Stadium in the Wild Card round rather than the Steelers, even after Houston won in Cincinnati. The Steelers are simply more dangerous and have enough offensive firepower to make a playoff run.

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

W

L

PCT

CONF

SOS

SOV

REASON

1 Patriots

10

1

.909

7-1

.479

.445

AFC East Champ

2 Bengals

9

2

.818

7-1

.462

.412

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

3 Broncos

9

2

.818

5-2

.521

.515

AFC West Champ

4 Colts

6

5

.545

4-3

.562

.485

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

5 Chiefs

6

5

.545

5-2

.587

.500

Wins tie break over NY Jets, Pittsburgh and Houston based on best win percentage in conference games.

6 Texans

6

5

.545

4-3

.521

.455

Wins tie break over NY Jets and Pittsburgh based on best win percentage in conference games.

7 Jets

6

5

.545

5-4

.458

.385

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

8 Steelers

6

5

.545

3-4

.504

.400

--

9 Raiders

5

6

.455

5-3

.479

.302

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

10 Bills

5

6

.455

5-5

.545

.400

--

11 Jaguars

4

7

.364

4-5

.508

.326

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

12 Dolphins

4

7

.364

2-6

.463

.386

--