The Patriots snapped their two-game losing streak with a convincing 34-13 win on the road in Cincinnati, and in doing so clinched a playoff spot and remained in control of their destiny for a first-round bye.
Despite the win, New England's lead in the AFC East remains at just a game after Buffalo's road win in Pittsburgh allowed the Bills to keep pace. The teams play Saturday at Gillette Stadium, and a Patriots win would wrap up an 11th consecutive AFC East title. A Bills win would create a tie heading to Week 17, where both will host division rivals to close the season. The Bills host the Jets while Miami visits Foxborough. The Patriots would win the division if the teams finish tied based on record vs. common opponents.
Outside of the division, the Chiefs win over Denver in the snow keeps Kansas City a game back in the AFC. Assuming the Chiefs win out, the Patriots would need two wins to capture a first-round bye as the Chiefs own the head-to-head tiebreaker. So even though New England can lose to Buffalo on Saturday and still win the division, a loss would likely force them to play on wild card weekend as the 3 seed.
Baltimore continues to roll as well and now needs just one win in its final two games to wrap up the No. 1 seed in the AFC.
Pittsburgh's loss keep Tennessee's hopes for a wild card berth alive as the teams remain tied with two weeks to go. Currently the Steelers have the edge based on conference record but that could change depending on the results over the final two weeks.
Here's a look at the current playoff structure in the AFC with the remaining schedule for each team.
|Baltimore (y)||12-2||3-1||8-2||at Cle., Pit.|
|New England (x)||11-3||4-0||7-3||Buf., Mia.|
|Kansas City (y)||10-4||5-0||8-3||at Chi., LAC|
|Houston||9-5||4-1||8-3||at TB, Ten.|
|Buffalo (x)||10-4||3-1||7-3||at NE, NYJ|
|Pittsburgh||8-6||3-2||6-4||at NYJ, at Bal.|
|Tennessee||8-6||2-3||6-5||NO, at Hou.|
- (y) Clinched Division Title
- (x) Clinched Playoff Berth
Pittsburgh's edge in conference record gives the Steelers the 6 seed over Tennessee.