The Patriots headed into this week hoping they could beat the Jets, clinch home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs, and rest important players like Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski next week. It didn’t work out that way.
The Jets beat the Patriots, which means the winner of Monday night’s Bengals-Broncos game will still be alive for the No. 1 seed in the AFC heading into Week 17.
Here’s how the AFC playoff race shapes up through Sunday’s games:
1. Patriots (12-3): New England will earn home-field advantage with a win over Miami next week.
2. Bengals (11-3): Cincinnati has clinched the AFC North but would lose the tiebreaker to New England at 13-3, so Cincinnati needs to win out and New England needs to lose next week for the Bengals to earn the No. 1 seed.
3. Broncos (10-4): Denver owns the head-to-head tiebreaker with New England, so if the Broncos win out and the Patriots lose next week, the Broncos will be the AFC No. 1 seed. But if the Broncos lose out and the Jets, Chiefs and Steelers all win next week, the Broncos miss the playoffs.
4. Texans (8-7): If Cincinnati wins on Monday night, Houston wins the AFC South. If Cincinnati loses, the AFC South race will go down to next week, when the Texans would clinch with a win or an Indianapolis loss.
5. Chiefs (10-5): The Chiefs have clinched a playoff spot and can still win the AFC West if they win next week and the Broncos lose a game.
6. Jets (10-5): The Jets are in the playoffs if they beat the Bills next week. They’d also make it if they lose and the Steelers also lose, or the Broncos lose both of their remaining games.
OUTSIDE LOOKING IN
7. Steelers (9-6): To make the playoffs, the Steelers have to beat the Browns next week, and either the Jets have to lose to the Bills, or the Broncos have to lose both of their remaining games.
AFC SOUTH RACE
Colts (7-8): The Colts need to win next week, have the Texans lose next week, and hope other games break their way so that they earn the strength of victory tiebreaker over the Texans. That’s a tall order.