One day after clinching a bye with a victory over the Jets, New England clinched the No. 1 seed in the AFC playoffs via the Bengals upset of the Broncos on Monday Night Football.
New England will have home field advantage throughout the postseason in the AFC. That also means that New England's season finale against the Bills Sunday afternoon at Gillette Stadium will remain at the previously scheduled time of 1 p.m.
Had the Broncos won on Monday night, the Patriots finale would have been flexed to 4:25 on Sunday to coincide with Denver's game in Oakland, as New England and Denver would have been vying for the No. 1 seed on the final day of action.
Now, New England's finale agianst Buffalo is virtually meaningless and the talk of the week in Foxborough will revolve around how Bill Belichick chooses to manage his lineup and personnel against the Bills. It's the age-old question of rest vs. rust, with the Patriots heading into a bye as four other AFC playoff contenders will battle it out on Wild Card Weekend.
With the No. 1 seed wrapped up and a first-round bye on the horizon, New England's first playoff matchup will be the weekend of Jan. 10/11 at Gillette Stadium agianst the lowest remaining seed in the conference following Wild Card Weekend action.