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Here's The Patriots' Playoff Situation In The Conference And The Division After Week 15

BOSTON (CBS) -- The Patriots lost on Saturday night in Indianapolis. It wasn't ideal, but it was also inevitable. No winning streak can go on forever, and the Patriots' streak ended at seven games.

A loss, obviously, puts a dent into their hopes of not just winning the AFC East but also earning the coveted No. 1 seed (and accompanying first-round bye) in the AFC. Had they been able to finish the year on an 11-game winning streak, they would have guaranteed both of those accomplishments. But an 11-game winning streak wasn't going to happen.

So, while they still control their own fate in the division, they'll need some help if they want to get back into the No. 1 spot in the conference. And they actually did get some assistance in that department on Sunday, courtesy of the Pittsburgh Steelers and Green Bay Packers.

The Titans were in Pittsburgh on Sunday afternoon, needing a win to stay ahead of the Patriots in the conference rankings. But Ryan Tannehill's pass to Nick Westbrook-Ikhine on fourth-and-7 in the game's final minute was caught a yard shy of the sticks, fueling a 19-13 Steelers win.

The loss dropped Tennessee to 9-5, which is the same record as the Patriots. But the Patriots own the head-to-head tiebreaker and thus sit above them in the standings.

The Patriots also got a boost from the Packers, who barely defeated the Baltimore Ravens, 31-30. That loss dropped the Ravens to 8-6.

The Patriots will enter Week 16 still in second place in the AFC, waiting and hoping for a Chiefs loss to vault New England back to the top spot. (The Patriots' 7-2 record vs. AFC opponents virtually guarantees them ownership of the tiebreaker, if needed.)

While that does paint a rosy picture, the fact is that the AFC East is still very much up for grabs, with next weekend's game at Gillette Stadium serving as a de facto division championship of sorts.

The Bills handled the kicker-less Panthers on Sunday, beating Carolina 31-14. That improved the Bills to 8-6 on the season, one game behind the Patriots.

If the Bills are able to beat the Patriots next weekend, then they'll be in the driver's seat to win the division. Their 4-0 record against the Jets and Dolphins will serve as the tiebreaker, and the Patriots already have a loss against Miami (with one more matchup left).

Of course, Buffalo could lose one of its final two games after beating the Patriots in this scenario. But they'll also be hosting the Falcons and Jets, both games where they'll be heavy favorites.

1. Kansas City, 10-4
2. New England, 9-5
3. Tennessee, 9-5
4. Baltimore, 8-6
5. Indianapolis, 8-6
6. L.A. Chargers, 8-6
7. Buffalo, 8-6

1. New England, 9-5
2. Buffalo, 8-6
3. Miami, 7-7
4. N.Y. Jets, 3-7

The best-case scenario for the Patriots, obviously, would be to win their final three games -- vs. the Bills and Jaguars, then at the Dolphins. That way, they'd win the division, and they'd just need one Kansas City loss to win the conference.

A loss in Weeks 17 or 18, and the equation changes. A loss in Week 16, and the Patriots are in big trouble.

All of that is to say, the good tidings and positive momentum built by the Patriots during their seven-game winning streak are now gone. Now, everything is all about the next game, which just so happens to be the biggest game of the year.

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