The Patriots squandered a golden opportunity to get a leg up in the race for home-field advantage in the AFC on Sunday when their comeback bid in Miami fell short.
New England held onto the No. 2 seed by virtue of a Cincinnati loss to Pittsburgh, but with the cupcake schedule Denver will face the rest of the way (at Houston and at Oakland), the Broncos’ grip on the conference’s top spot is now all but ironclad.
To have any shot at home-field, the Pats will almost certainly have to win out against a pair of familiar opponents — Baltimore and Buffalo.
The Ravens have come around of late after a sluggish start to the season, winning three straight and four of their last five — including an overtime win over the AFC North-leading Bengals — to launch themselves back into the playoff discussion. A rematch with Cincinnati awaits in Week 17, and with the Bengals on Sunday, a win in that regular-season finale could send the defending Super Bowl champs back to the postseason with a surprising division title.
Buffalo, on the other hand, has struggled since its promising start, dropping five of its last six before edging Jacksonville on Sunday. The Bills do boast a potent two-headed rushing attack led by C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson, however, and the Patriots needed a last-second field goal to avoid an upset when these teams last met back in Week 1.