The 2010 Patriots and Falcons are proof that getting a No. 1 seed only means so much in the playoffs. But it certainly never hurts.
Following the upsets of Week 15, the Patriots are right back in position to get the AFC’s top seed again.
Let’s break down the race for playoff byes in the AFC.
Patriots: It’s not tough to figure out the scenarios. New England just has to beat the Dolphins and Bills in Foxborough to clinch the top spot.
Miami could be a trickier game than people think. They are playing excellent defense and their man coverage could give New England some problems. The Dolphins have won five of seven games for a reason.
Still, those are two home games the Patriots should win. Despite all their defensive problems, they have a great chance to go 13-3 and get the top seed in the AFC.
Ravens: If the Patriots lost another game, Baltimore would get the No. 1 seed by winning out. The Ravens will hold the tiebreak over the Patriots and Texans because of strength of victory if all three teams tied.
The Ravens host the Browns then head to Cincinnati. Baltimore is 3-4 on the road. That Bengals game is no gimme. If the Ravens win twice, they get no worse than the No. 2 seed.
Texans: They need the Ravens or Patriots to slip up for a chance at a bye. Baltimore beat Houston head-to-head. At this stage, it’s uncertain who would win a tiebreaker between the Texans and Patriots. It’s too close.
Steelers: Pittsburgh probably gave up any chance at a bye when they lost to the 49ers. Even if Pittsburgh won the AFC North, the Steelers would need Houston to lose again in order to have a chance for a bye.
So are the Patriots suddenly Super Bowl favorites? Not really. All of these teams are evenly matched and beatable.
The Patriots have the clearest weakness of any AFC contender, so they need any advantage they can get.