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Patriots playoff clinching scenarios: New England can punch their ticket without playing a single snap

It all comes down to the Buffalo Bills.

New England Patriots v Buffalo Bills Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images

The New England Patriots took care on business on Sunday against the Buffalo Bills and are in great position to clinch a playoff spot before taking the field against the Miami Dolphins in week 14.

The Patriots are only capable of clinching the AFC East next week and a top three seed. New England needed the Indianapolis Colts to upset the Jacksonville Jaguars in week 13 to have a shot at clinching a first round bye, but that did not take place.

The (6-6) Bills host the (3-9) Colts at 1:00 PM ET on Sunday and should be considered the favorite. But if the Colts manage to win, then the Bills will have seven losses on the year and it would be impossible for them to match or surpass the Patriots record, clinching the AFC East for the Patriots. So technically the Patriots can clinch the division without playing a snap in week 14.

(10-2) New England goes on the road to face the (5-7) Miami Dolphins on Monday Night Football. The Patriots can clinch the AFC East with a victory, regardless of what happens in the Bills game.

The Patriots can also clinch a top three seed with a victory, or with a loss by the Kansas City Chiefs. The (6-6) Chiefs host the (6-6) Oakland Raiders at 1:00 PM ET and a loss by the Chiefs would give them seven losses and they would not be able to tie the Patriots record, rendering Kansas City’s head-to-head victory useless in the seeding arrangement.

New England has the head-to-head tiebreaker against both the Raiders and the (6-6) Los Angeles Chargers, so it doesn’t matter if they win or not; the Patriots already hold the advantage.

So an ideal week 14 for the Patriots would see the Bills and Chiefs lose at 1:00 PM ET. New England would also like to see the (8-4) Jacksonville Jaguars lose at home to the (8-4) Seattle Seahawks at 4:25 PM ET, and the (9-2) Pittsburgh Steelers lose at home to the (7-5) Baltimore Ravens on Sunday Night.

That would position the Patriots to clinch homefield advantage in the AFC in week 15 with a victory over the Steelers. A fifth loss for the Jaguars and a two-game lead plus the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Steelers would clinch the #1 seed for the Patriots.