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What is the ideal playoff seeding for the Patriots in the 2016 playoffs?

What order of teams creates the best outcome for New England?

The New England Patriots are the team to beat in the AFC playoffs, but there is still an ideal seeding for New England. There are five possible seeding scenarios based on the outcome of three week 17 match-ups and there are three where the Patriots are the #1 seed with homefield advantage.

The Patriots will want the #1 seed, obviously, but the ideal rankings for the Oakland Raiders, Kansas City Chiefs, and Miami Dolphins hinges upon whether New England wants the Chiefs to play on the road, or if the Patriots would rather face the Raiders in the divisional round.

If the Patriots and Raiders receive the first round byes, then the Chiefs and Dolphins will be the wild card teams. Whichever team faces the #4 seed Houston Texans will likely move on with relative ease, while the #3 seed Pittsburgh Steelers would have a nice rematch on the schedule. The Steelers crushed the Chiefs 43-14 in week 4, while they fell to the Miami Dolphins 30-15 in week 6.

The Patriots would likely face the Chiefs or the Dolphins, while the Raiders would play the Steelers or Chiefs. This seems less than ideal for New England.

If the Raiders lose against the Denver Broncos and the Chiefs defeat the San Diego Chargers, then the Chiefs will be the #2 seed and the Raiders would be the #5 seed. The Raiders would travel to face the Texans in an ugly game of quarterbacking between Raiders QB Matt McGloin and Texans QB Tom Savage. The Dolphins would have their rematch with the Steelers.

The Patriots would likely face either the Raiders or the Dolphins, while the Chiefs would face the Steelers or the Raiders. This is a pretty good scenario for New England. The world where the Patriots host the Raiders and the Chiefs host the Steelers for a chance to play in the AFC Championship game is the ideal outcome and is also very likely to happen.

But it’s clear the top competition in the AFC are the Steelers and the Chiefs, though, so if we’re only looking at initial seeding it would be in the Patriots best interest for both teams to play on wild card weekend to increase their exhaustion and create another opportunity for playoff elimination.

The best scenario might actually be the least likely and would involve the Steelers and Chiefs playing each other on wild card weekend, while the Dolphins would get to face the Texans. The Patriots, Raiders, and Chiefs all have to lose in week 17 for this scenario to happen.

On one hand, playing the Raiders in the divisional round, while the Chiefs and Steelers square off would be a boon for New England. On the other, having the Chiefs and Steelers eliminate one another over wild card weekend would assure one of the Patriots top competitors would be out of the playoff race.

Click here to see the possible playoff seeding. Which seeding would you prefer?