Quarterbacks Patrick Mahomes, left, and Tom Brady meet Sunday in Foxborough will plenty at stake for their teams regarding playoff seeding. Associated Press photos

Bad enough the New England Patriots lost their hold of the all-important top seed in the AFC playoff race with the loss to the Houston Texans.

If they can’t get it together and beat the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday, their spot as the No. 2 seed, which also brings a first-round bye, won’t be secure.

That’s one of the major story lines heading into the upcoming clash with Andy Reid, Patrick Mahomes and their AFC championship game counterpart.

Suddenly, the AFC playoff race has tightened at the top, but especially for the Patriots, who are 10-2 with games still to play against the Chiefs, Cincinnati Bengals, Buffalo Bills and Miami Dolphins.

The top seed now belongs to the red-hot Baltimore Ravens, who have control of the coveted golden ticket of home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.

With four games to play, the No. 1 seed is still in play for the Patriots with a Ravens loss, but depending on what the Patriots do, they could also finish anywhere from No. 2 to No. 5.

They’re currently two games ahead of Kansas City and Houston for the second bye. A loss to the Chiefs would really make things interesting. That would set up the Patriots to lose head-to-head tiebreakers with both the Chiefs and Texans if they can’t right the ship in the remaining games.

As for the AFC East, a division the Pats have dominated for nearly two decades, there’s fallout there as well. Suddenly, their once-firm grip on the division isn’t so firm. The Bills, at 9-3, are right on their tail. Granted, the Patriots won the first game between the two teams in Buffalo, but that makes the Dec. 21 game in Foxborough an even bigger deal, especially if the Patriots suffer another loss before then.

With that as a backdrop, here’s a look at the top teams in the AFC and how each figures into the mix with the Patriots.

Ravens (10-2)

They lead the AFC North and are the hottest team in football, having won eight straight, including Sunday’s slogfest with San Francisco. Justin Tucker’s 49-yard field goal at the end of regulation was the difference. The 49ers joined the list of teams the Ravens have dispatched, including the Patriots, Seahawks, Texans and Rams. They’re currently the top seed, and with head-to-head wins, hold tiebreakers over the Patriots and Texans.

They have two difficult games remaining against playoff contenders. They’re at Buffalo on Sunday, and they have a home game against Pittsburgh remaining. If they don’t lose, the Patriots can’t get the No. 1 seed, and that would mean possibly playing the AFC championship game on the road for a second straight season.

Texans (8-4)

The AFC South’s top team gained some distance on the Tennessee Titans (7-5) and Indianapolis Colts (6-6) with Sunday night’s win over the Patriots. They’re on course to win the division for the fourth time in the last five seasons. The win over the Patriots put them on the map as legitimate playoff contenders. The Texans had lost their last eight games against the Patriots, and Coach Bill O’Brien was 0-5. They’ll need to gain two games on the Patriots in four weeks, or three on the Ravens, to move into one of the top two spots in the AFC. They play Denver this week and still have two games remaining with the Titans. Those games will tell the story for the Texans, not to mention the Titans. If the Texans are going to catch the Patriots for the No. 2 seed, Mike Vrabel and the suddenly streaking Titans stand in the way.

Chiefs (8-4)

They pretty much locked up their fourth straight AFC West title Sunday by blasting the Raiders, 40-9. They’re the fourth seed at the moment because the Texans own the head-to-head tiebreaker between the teams. Houston beat Kansas City in Week 6. The Chiefs, however, have a soft schedule the rest of the way after their showdown with the Patriots on Sunday: Denver Broncos, Chicago Bears and Los Angeles Chargers, none of which has a winning record. Patrick Mahomes hasn’t put up huge numbers since his return from missing time because of a dislocated knee. Against the Raiders, he completed just 15 of 29 passes for 175 yards and a touchdown. He’s moving fine, as evidenced by his 13-yard touchdown run. He’s due to break out.

Bills (9-3)

They pretty much locked in a wild-card spot with their Thanksgiving take down of the Cowboys in Dallas. They’ve been accused of stacking wins against a soft schedule, but beating a somewhat desperate Cowboys team at AT&T Stadium was impressive. Their defense remains their calling card, while the offense is coming along with Josh Allen making fewer mistakes. They’ve quietly positioned themselves to overtake the Patriots if Bill Belichick’s team has a few hiccups down the stretch. They have to deal with Lamar Jackson and Baltimore on Sunday. The Niners were able to contain that offense. It’ll be interesting to see if the Bills can pull off an upset. If they do, it’ll help the Patriots in one case, but still leave the Bills breathing down their necks in the division. The Dec. 21 game could have a lot of meaning.

Steelers (7-5)

Right now, Pittsburgh holds the second wild-card spot over the Titans (7-5), Raiders (6-6) and Colts (6-6). They’re on their third quarterback, but they’ve battled back from a 1-4 start by winning six of the last seven games. They make it in as the second wild card over the Titans because of holding a better conference record. Their schedule is tough down the stretch. They have to visit Arizona this week, but also have to face the Bills and Ravens in subsequent weeks.

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