Patriots

Patriots

Sunday's 34-13 win over the Bengals clinched the Patriots' 11th straight trip to the playoffs, the longest streak in NFL history.

But with two weeks remaining in the NFL season, that's all that New England knows about its postseason future — only that it exists. Will the Pats go into the playoffs as division winners or a wild card? Will they play at home or on the road in January? That's still to be determined over the next two weeks.

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Let's try to clear things up for a team that could finish as anything from the No. 1 to the No. 5 seed in the AFC.

No. 1 seed & home-field advantage throughout playoffs

Though technically still a possibility, there's little to no chance of the Patriots earning the conference's top seed.

Thanks to a 37-20 loss to Baltimore in Week 9, New England would need to win its final two games of the season (vs. Buffalo and vs. Miami) while the 12-2 Ravens would need to lose their remaining two games (at Cleveland and vs. Pittsburgh) to vault Baltimore in the standings. Not happening.

No. 2 seed & first-round bye

The Patriots have earned a bye in an NFL-record nine consecutive seasons, and they control their destiny to make it 10 in a row.

If the Pats win their final two games and finish the season with a 13-3 record, they'll wrap up a bye. Simple as that. And they'll enter the playoffs as the 2-seed so long as the Ravens win at least once.

 

A 1-1 record in the final two weeks doesn't eliminate the possibility of a bye; it just makes things more complicated, as the Chiefs would need to cooperate by losing at least one of their remaining two games (at Chicago, vs. the Chargers).

No. 3 seed & hosting a Wild Card game

With the Chiefs lurking (and owning the tiebreaker over the Patriots thanks to their Week 14 win in Foxboro), this is a distinct possibility should New England slip up against either the Bills or Dolphins.

If the Patriots lose in either of the next two weeks and finish with a 12-4 record, Kansas City would jump them in the standings by winning out. New England would then have to play on Wild Card weekend, which hasn't happened since 2009, when Tom Brady threw three picks and Ray Rice steamrolled his way to 159 yards on the ground in a 33-14 Ravens victory.

No. 4 seed & hosting a Wild Card game

This isn't a likely scenario, but it's possible should a three- or four-way tie happen in the standings.

If the Patriots, Texans, and Chiefs all finish with identical 11-5 records, New England would drop to the 4-seed because of losses to both Houston and Kansas City. In this scenario, the Texans would vault into the No. 2 seed thanks to a 31-24 win over the Chiefs back in Week 6.

No. 5 seed & going on the road for a Wild Card game

Here's another remote possibility, but there is a chance that the Patriots could open the postseason on the road for the first time since 1998.

If New England loses its final two games against the Bills and Dolphins, while the Bills defeat both the Patriots and Jets, Buffalo would claim its first AFC East title since 1995, dropping the 11-5 Patriots all the way to the No. 5 seed in the AFC.