BOSTON (CBS) -- The New England Patriots have climbed all the way to the top seed in the AFC. And on Sunday, they didn't even have to do anything to get there.
With the Ravens losing, 20-19, in Pittsburgh, Baltimore dropped to 8-4 on the season.
The Patriots, also 8-4, own the tiebreaker over Baltimore, which is record against AFC teams. The Patriots are 6-1 vs. AFC teams, while the Ravens are 5-4 vs. AFC teams. The Titans, who are also 8-4 and lost to the Patriots last week, are 5-3 vs. AFC teams.
The rise for the Patriots didn't seem possible through six weeks, when the Patriots sat at 2-4 on the season, with an 0-4 record at home. But they've steadily strung together six straight wins -- three at home, three on the road -- to get to 8-4, while rounding their defense into form and developing rookie quarterback Mac Jones.
The party in New England on Sunday night is not exactly full-fledged, though. The Patriots are in action in Buffalo on Monday night, taking on the 7-4 Bills. If the Patriots win, they'll separate themselves a little from the AFC pack. But if they lost, they'll drop to 8-5 and out of that top spot.
On Sunday, the Patriots owe some thanks to the Steelers' defense, which helped force an incompletion on a two-point conversion attempt by Baltimore in the final seconds. The Ravens had driven 60 yards while trailing by seven points to score a touchdown, but Baltimore head coach John Harbaugh elected to go for a two-point conversion to try to win the game instead of kicking an extra point to force overtime. Lamar Jackson's pass to Mark Andrews was rushed, and Andrews wasn't able to make a one-handed catch on the run.
Obviously, the exact standings don't matter until the regular season ends. Yet with the way the Patriots started the season, being in this position in early December is quite the unlikely surge for Bill Belichick's team.
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