We as fans watch the scoreboard and root for the outcomes that best favor the Patriots and their path to home field advantage. Up until today, the Patriots were not in control of their own destiny for the #1 seed in the AFC playoffs. But with Oakland losing to the Chiefs, the Patriots control their destiny for the #1 seed. I’ve said all year that 13 wins will get the Patriots HFA, which means a 3-1 finish would likely put them there.
The biggest obstacle is now the Kansas City Chiefs at 10-3, although ideally they win the AFC West over Oakland due to more favorable tiebreaker scenarios, and half a game behind the Patriots. Assuming both teams finish 13-3, the Patriots need to win at home vs. the Jets or on the road against Denver to clinch HFA common opponent tiebreaker (13 wins would assume Patriots beat one of the two teams). Common opponents are the Broncos, Jets, Steelers, and Texans. Patriots are 3-0 against those opponents and the Chiefs are 2-2 (losses to PIT and HOU).
With that in mind, the Patriots can clinch Home Field in Week 16. The way to do so is winning their next three games. The Patriots draw the Ravens, Broncos, and Dolphins, all of whom are fighting for a shot in the postseason. That’s arguably the most difficult three-week stretch in the season, although the Week 6-8 stretch was pretty tough as well, playing against the Bengals, Steelers, and Bills with two on the road. Now there is also the possibility of the Raiders winning out (13-3) and the Chiefs (12-4) and Patriots (13-3) each dropping a game. That would give Oakland HFA. However, I see the Chiefs winning in Week 15 @ TEN and 16 vs. DEN.
For the Patriot players and coaches, they should not worry about tiebreaker scenarios. Their focus needs to be on their next opponent, which this week is at home against the Baltimore Ravens. The Patriots need this win to stay on pace for the #1 seed, the team cannot afford two losses otherwise it’s the #2 seed. The one thing the Patriots can control is how well they play and their own games. They now control their destiny for the #1 seed and could clinch as early as Week 16 assuming the Patriots win their next three games and Oakland loses to the Colts in Week 15 or San Diego in Week 16. As far as the Patriots are concerned the only path to Home Field Advantage in their mind should be finishing the season 14-2, a very tough task with 3 AFC teams playing for a playoff spot and a 4th team being a hated division foe.