Obviously, that’s in a relative sense, but with their destiny in their own hands, the Patriots have a tremendous opportunity to ensure they never have to leave Gillette Stadium in January. Had they lost to the Jets on Monday, the Patriots would have been eying two or three road games in their march through the AFC playoffs. And that, of course, is a whole lot less appealing than a bye week and two home contests.
With the current standings, the fifth-seeded Jets would open the postseason in fourth-seeded Jacksonville, while the sixth-seeded Ravens would travel to third-seeded Kansas City. The Patriots and Steelers would receive first-round byes, and the top-seeded Pats would host the lowest-remaining seed in the divisional round. That would, for predictive purposes, set up Patriots-Ravens and Steelers-Jets matchups for the divisional weekend.
Obviously, plenty of things can still shake out during the last four weeks of the regular season. The Patriots still have to hold off the Jets in the AFC East, while the Steelers have to cling to their one-game lead over the Ravens in the AFC North (the Patriots might hope the Ravens win their division, which would almost guarantee the two teams wouldn’t meet until the AFC Championship). Also, the Chiefs still have to hold off the Chargers and Raiders, while the Jaguars will have the fight of their lives trying to stay in front of the Colts.
So while there is still a lot of uncertainty, one thing is crystal clear: The Patriots put themselves in terrific position from here on out, and they’ve cut down the level of difficulty in their path to the Super Bowl.
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