The New England Patriots will return to the NFL playoffs and defend their Super Bowl title.

The reigning champions clinched a postseason berth Sunday with their 34-13 Week 15 win over the Cincinnati Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium.

New England will make its 11th straight playoff appearance. The Patriots have missed the postseason only twice (2002 and 2008) since Tom Brady became the starting quarterback during the 2001 campaign, and they've won nine conference championships and six Super Bowl titles over that span.

The team's latest feat also is a new league record:

The Pats own an 11-3 record and sit in second place in the AFC standings. The Baltimore Ravens are the No. 1 seed at 12-2, and they also own the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Patriots as a result of their 37-20 Week 9 victory. 

The chances of the Patriots earning the No. 1 seed are very slim, but earning a first-round playoff bye is very possible. New England would secure the No. 2 seed with victories in its final two regular season games versus the Buffalo Bills and Miami Dolphins.


New England still hasn't clinched the AFC East title, however. The Bills have a 9-4 record entering Week 15 for second place in the division. The Patriots and Bills will play at Gillette Stadium in Week 16, and a win for New England would clinch another division crown.

The last season during which the Patriots failed to win the AFC East was 2008.

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