Patriots Playoff Seeding: Variety Of Outcomes Still In Play This Weekend

New England currently is the fifth seed


January 4

The Patriots know they’re in the NFL playoffs, and that’s about it.

New England clinched a postseason spot last Sunday with its 50-10 demolition of the Jacksonville Jaguars and a Miami Dolphins loss. Whenever the Patriots take the field in the playoffs, it will be their first postseason game since losing to the Tennessee Titans in the AFC Wild Card round on Jan. 4, 2020. That, of course, was Tom Brady’s final game in a Patriots uniform.

But first, New England must take care of business in Miami against the Dolphins on Sunday. A variety of playoff seedings remain possible for the Patriots, depending on how they and other AFC teams do in Week 18.

The Patriots still can finish with any of the seven AFC playoff seeds, other than fourth. Additionally, New England could see a first-round matchup with any of the four other teams that have clinched playoff spots, as well as the five teams that have yet to be eliminated from playoff contention.

If you thought scoreboard-watching season ended last weekend, you thought wrong.

Now, there are a variety of ways for the Patriots to land in different spots, especially when you factor in how ties — and tiebreakers — throw everything into chaos. To avoid unnecessary headaches, let’s just give one example of how New England can finish with each AFC playoff seed.

First seed: Yes, the first-round bye still is in play, but don’t get your hopes up. The following would need to happen:
— Patriots beat Dolphins
— Buffalo Bills lose to New York Jets
— Kansas City Chiefs lose to Denver Broncos
— Tennessee Titans lose to Houston Texans

Second seed: This is a bit more realistic, but still unlikely.
— Patriots beat Dolphins
— Bills lose to Jets
— Titans lose to Texans
— Chiefs beat Broncos

Third seed: New England would be guaranteed at least this spot if it wins the AFC East.
— Patriots beat Dolphins
— Bills lose to Jets
— Chiefs beat Broncos
— Titans beat Texans

Fourth seed: It’s impossible. Won’t happen.

(Note: It really doesn’t matter what the Cincinnati Bengals do, as the Patriots would own the common games tiebreaker if they finish with the same record.)

(Double note, for those unaware: Only division winners can occupy the top four seeds. So, the Patriots need to win the AFC East to get up there and to guarantee themselves a home playoff game.)

Fifth seed: The Patriots can’t finish any lower than this spot if they win Sunday afternoon.
— Patriots beat Dolphins
— Bills beat Jets

(Note: The Patriots would stay in this spot if the Raiders and Colts also lose.)

Sixth seed: This would require New England slipping up against Miami. However, depending on how you feel about the Bengals, who currently are the third seed, this could be a blessing in disguise for Bill Belichick’s team.
— Patriots lose to Dolphins
— Indianapolis beats Jacksonville
— Las Vegas loses to Los Angeles Chargers

(Note: The same outcome would happen if the Raiders win and the Colts lose.)

Seventh seed: Finishing with the seventh seed would be a disaster scenario for the Patriots as, in all likelihood, it would result in them having to travel to Kansas City or Tennessee in the Wild Card round. Good luck, Mac Jones.
— Patriots lose to Dolphins
— Raiders beat Chargers
— Colts beat Jaguars

(Note: The Raiders (common games) and Colts (head-to-head) both hold tiebreakers over the Patriots.)

Well, there you have it. Your weekend just got much more interesting.

During the Brady era, it rarely mattered whom the Patriots faced during the playoffs, as they beat nearly everyone except the Broncos, Baltimore Ravens and New York Giants. However, these are different times, and New England absolutely needs the right matchups if it wants to go on a deep playoff run.

Those matchups will be determined by seedings, all of which still are up for grabs.

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