There's a lot at stake for the top two teams in the AFC playoff race in Week 15.

The New England Patriots enter the weekend as the No. 2 seed with a 10-3 record, and they are trying to avoid three consecutive losses, something the team hasn't suffered since the 2002 season. The likelihood of another defeat Sunday is pretty small, however, because the Patriots are playing a Cincinnati Bengals team that sits at the bottom of the league standings with a 1-12 record.

What must the Patriots do to clinch a playoff spot in Week 15? It's simple -- win or tie and they're in.

A victory would clinch at least a wild card spot for New England. The defending Super Bowl champions cannot clinch the AFC East on Sunday. However, a win over the Bengals followed by a Week 16 victory over the Buffalo Bills would clinch the division title for the Patriots.

The Patriots also could see their hopes of earning the No. 1 seed and homefield advantage throughout the playoffs end this weekend. The Baltimore Ravens currently are the No. 1 seed, and they would clinch that spot with a win over the New York Jets, combined with a Patriots loss to the Bengals and a Kansas City Chiefs loss to the Denver Broncos. The Ravens would clinch a first-round bye if any of the following three scenarios unfold:

BAL win + NE loss
BAL win + KC loss or tie
BAL tie + KC loss

The easiest way for the Patriots to clinch a first-round bye is to win their last three regular season games. Winning all of these matchups would guarantee at least the No. 2 seed for Tom Brady and Co.


Updated NFL playoff picture entering Week 15>>>

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