Pats to play in wild-card game, Chiefs get AFC's No. 2 seed

Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes (15) celebrates following an NFL football game against the Los Angeles Chargers in Kansas City, Mo., Sunday, Dec. 29, 2019. Kansas City Chiefs won 31-21. (AP Photo/Ed Zurga)

NEW YORK (AP) — Tom Brady and the New England Patriots will be playing in the postseason a week earlier than usual this year.

The defending Super Bowl champs open the playoffs during wild-card weekend for the first time since 2009 after they lost 27-24 to Miami on Sunday and Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs beat the Los Angeles Chargers 31-21 to earn a first-round bye.

"We didn't play the way we're capable of playing and it ended up costing us," Brady said. "Just too many bad mistakes."

The Patriots (12-4) are the No. 3 overall seed in the AFC and will have to fix things in a hurry as they host either Tennessee, Pittsburgh or Oakland next weekend.

"We've got a game next week, we've got to get ready to go," Patriots safety Devin McCourty said. "Nobody should feel sorry for us, we shouldn't feel sorry for ourselves. Our goal is to play in the playoffs. We got a shot next week at all of that."

The Titans were playing at Houston on Sunday, the Steelers were at Baltimore and the Raiders were at Denver.

Tennessee has the easiest path to the final spot: If the Titans win, they're in. Pittsburgh needs to win and have the Titans lose. Oakland must win, have both Tennessee and Pittsburgh lose — and have Indianapolis win at Jacksonville, which would give the Raiders the playoff berth based on strength of schedule.

The last time New England played on wild-card weekend, it lost at home to the Ravens. The Patriots have never made it to the Super Bowl with Brady and coach Bill Belichick while playing in the opening round.

"We've got to move forward and get ready to go or the end of our season will be next week if we don't turn the page and play good football, way better than today," McCourty said. "Nobody feels sorry for the Patriots not getting a first-round bye in the playoffs."

Meanwhile, the Chiefs (12-4) are the No. 2 seed and will be able to watch the opening round, along with the top-seeded Baltimore Ravens.

"We'll step back, the guys will come in tomorrow, we'll have a team meeting, I'll give them a schedule for what's going on the next week here during the bye week," Chiefs coach Andy Reid said. "The main thing is we get work done, but we rest up and get ready for whoever we might play."

Kansas City's victory also locked Houston into the No. 4 seed, and the Texans will host the Buffalo Bills (10-6) next weekend.

In the NFC, Green Bay earned at least a first-round bye with a 23-20 victory at Detroit. Now, Aaron Rodgers and the Packers (13-3) will wait on the result on the San Francisco-Seattle matchup Sunday night to see if they'll have the No. 1 overall seed — and home-field advantage —- in the conference.

If the 49ers win, they get it. Otherwise, it will be the Packers in the top spot.

Dennis Waszak5:57 PM

"We're hot," Rodgers said after helping his team rally to its fifth straight win. "But you've got to start all over in the playoffs and it's all great football teams now, so the margin of error is even smaller."

New Orleans routed Carolina 42-10 to finish 13-3 in the regular season, but Drew Brees and Co. will also have to wait to see what their playoff path will be.

The NFC South champions can't get home-field advantage because of Green Bay's win, but can earn a first-round bye if Seattle beats San Francisco. A win by the 49ers would push the Saints to the No. 3 seed and a home game against Minnesota in the wild-card round next weekend.

The NFC East is still up for grabs, with Philadelphia needing only a road victory over the New York Giants on Sunday afternoon to clinch it. If the Eagles lose, Dallas can win the division by beating Washington at home.

"The NFC is wide open," Rodgers said. "I think home-field advantage can be very important."

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AP Sports Writers Kyle Hightower, Larry Lage and Dave Skretta contributed.

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