The New England Patriots face a simple reality entering their Week 17 matchup against the Miami Dolphins.
If they defeat their AFC East rivals at home, they’ll clinch the No. 2 seed and a first-round bye. That means they won’t have to play on Wild Card weekend for the first time since the 2009 season.
However, if they somehow falter against the 4-11 Dolphins, it opens up a can of worms. That would be because it would open up the possibility of the Kansas City Chiefs nabbing the No. 2 seed and the first round bye by defeating the 5-10 Los Angeles Chargers at Arrowhead Stadium.
According to Playoff Status, the Patriots have a 94 percent chance at clinching the No. 2 seed and just a six percent chance at entering the postseason as the No. 3 seed.
With the playoff scenario covered, let’s take a look at the Patriots’ possible opponent for the postseason along with the AFC standings.
AFC Playoff Standings
- 1. Baltimore Ravens – 13-2
2. New England Patriots – 12-3
3. Kansas City Chiefs – 11-4
4. Houston Texans – 10-5
5. Buffalo Bills – 10-5
6. Tennessee Titans – 8-7
7. Pittsburgh Steelers – 8-7
8. Oakland Raiders – 7-8
9. Indianapolis Colts – 7-8
10. Cleveland Browns – 6-9
11. Denver Broncos – 6-9
12. New York Jets – 6-9
13. Los Angeles Chargers – 5-10
14. Jacksonville Jaguars – 5-10
15. Miami Dolphins – 4-11
16. Cincinnati Bengals – 1-14
Patriots’ Possible Playoff Matchups
As mentioned earlier, the Patriots face two possible scenarios for the playoffs — either enter as the No. 2 seed or enter as the No. 3 seed.
If New England enters as the No. 2 seed, they’ll obviously get the first playoff weekend off. In this scenario, they’re guaranteed at least one home playoff date in the divisional round and would hold home field advantage over any team in the AFC not named the Ravens.
If the Patriots end up as the No. 3 seed, they’ll play in the first round of the AFC playoffs for the first time since the 2009 season. In this scenario, they’ll host either the Titans, Steelers or Raiders.
The Titans simply need to defeat the Houston Texans in order to clinch their playoff bid, while the Steelers need to beat the Ravens and hope for a Titans loss against the Texans. In the case of the Raiders, they’ll need to defeat the Broncos, hope for a Titans and Steelers loss while also hoping for a Colts win over the Jaguars.
To top things off, the Raiders will need to win the strength of victory tiebreaker over the Steelers — that happens if ONE of the following teams win or tie: CHI, DET, LAC OR NE.
For reference, the last time the Patriots played on the opening playoff weekend, they were trounced by the Ravens 33-14 at Gillette Stadium.
AFC Playoff Matchups
Here are the current AFC playoff matchups if the postseason started today. The top two seeds get a first-round bye and host a playoff game in the Divisional Round.
No. 6 Tennessee Titans at No. 3 Kansas City Chiefs
No. 5 Buffalo Bills at No. 4 Houston Texans
Bye: No. 1 Baltimore Ravens, No. 2 New England Patriots
AFC Wild Card Standings
The top two teams in the Wild Card standings will claim a playoff spot. Teams in bold would make the playoffs if the postseason started today.
- 1. Buffalo Bills – 10-4
- 2. Tennessee Titans – 8-7
- 3. Pittsburgh Steelers – 8-7
- 4. Oakland Raiders – 7-8