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AFC Playoff Picture: Bengals pass Patriots and Broncos for top seed

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The Bengals are now holding the No. 1 seed in the AFC, but there's still plenty of work to be done if they are to secure a first-round bye.

Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

There's a new team at the top of the AFC playoff standings.

The New England Patriots have fallen from the top spot following their loss at home to the Philadelphia Eagles. That followed an overtime loss to the Denver Broncos last week after New England was on the verge of building a two-game lead in the race for the AFC standings.

The Patriots have now lost two straight, and combined with two-straight wins by the Bengals, it is now Cincinnati on top of the AFC. Though the Bengals, Patriots and Broncos all have 10-2 records after their Week 13 games, Cincy has a superior conference record at 8-1 in AFC play.

The Bengals edge out the Broncos for the stop spot due to Denver's two losses both to AFC teams (Kansas city Chiefs and Indianapolis Colts). The Bengals have lost to one AFC team and one NFC team now, giving them the top seed over the Broncos.

However, Denver is still in great position to steal the top spot with four games left in the regular season. Head-to-head (best won-lost-tied percentage in games among the clubs) is the all-important tie-breaker when it comes to postseason seeding, and Denver already has a win over New England. The Broncos host the Bengals in Week 16 on Monday Night Football, a game in which Denver will likely be favored to win.

If they do so, the Broncos will have a 2-0 record vs the Bengals and Patriots while having that head-to-head tiebreaker if all three teams finish with equal records. The head-to-head win over New England is why Denver would be the No. 2 seed if the playoffs began today.

There's still a lot left to be decided and four regular season games of football left to be played for each of the current top three teams, but the Bengals could not have asked for a better scenario coming into the 2015 NFL season.

Here are the latest AFC playoff standings via ESPN, prior to the Steelers vs Colts game on Sunday Night Football.

W

L

T

PCT

CONF

SOS

SOV

REASON

1 Cincinnati Bengals

10

2

0

.833

8-1

.434

.387

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

2 Denver Broncos

10

2

0

.833

6-2

.483

.467

AFC West Champ
Wins tie break over New England based on head-to-head win percentage.

3 New England Patriots

10

2

0

.833

7-1

.486

.457

AFC East Champ

4 Indianapolis Colts

6

5

0

.545

4-3

.562

.486

AFC South Champ

5 Kansas City Chiefs

7

5

0

.583

6-2

.566

.482

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

6 New York Jets

7

5

0

.583

5-4

.451

.390

--

7 Pittsburgh Steelers

6

5

0

.545

3-4

.500

.389

--

8 Buffalo Bills

6

6

0

.500

6-5

.545

.451

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

9 Houston Texans

6

6

0

.500

4-4

.532

.479

--

10 Oakland Raiders

5

7

0

.417

5-4

.483

.317

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

11 Miami Dolphins

5

7

0

.417

3-6

.465

.390

--

12 Jacksonville Jaguars

4

8

0

.333

4-6

.493

.375

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