In terms of playoff positioning, yesterday’s results around the AFC could not have gone much better for the New England Patriots.
New England’s two rivals for the AFC East crown, the Miami Dolphins and the Buffalo Bills, both suffered close defeats yesterday at the hands of the Ravens and the Broncos, respectively. The loss dropped both teams to 7-6, and effectively locked up a sixth straight AFC East division title for the Patriots.
All the Patriots need to do now: win any of their final three remaining games (home vs. Miami, on the road against the Jets, home vs. Buffalo).
Due to the Bengals’ loss to the Steelers, the Patriots’ path to a first round bye is also pretty simple. If the Patriots win two of their next three games, they are guaranteed a first round bye due to the tiebreaker they own with the Colts. Of course, the real prize that the Patriots want is that first seed. Buffalo played Denver close and completely shut down Peyton Manning. Nonetheless, their loss moved the Broncos to 10-3. The Patriots own the tiebreaker with Denver, but barring a surprise Broncos loss, will need to win out to clinch the #1 seed.
While the Patriots’ path to playoff positioning remains relatively simple, it is far from that for the rest of the AFC. There is currently a three way tie for the two wildcard spots with the Steelers, Chargers, and Ravens all at 8-5. There are five additional 7-6 teams that are also very much alive in the Texans, Dolphins, Chiefs, Bills, and Browns.