With the Baltimore loss to the Steelers, New England now moves in to a three-way tie with Baltimore and Denver for second place in the AFC.
1. Houston Texans (11-1)
2. New England Patriots (9-3)
3. Baltimore Ravens (9-3)
4. Denver Broncos (9-3)
5. Indianapolis Colts (8-4)
6. Pittsburg Steelers (7-5)
In the hunt: Bengals (7-5), Jets (5-7), Bills (5-7), Dolphins (5-7), Browns (4-8), Chargers (4-8), Titans (4-8)
Only three teams, the Raiders, Chiefs, and Jaguars have been mathematically eliminated from the playoffs, however, wins by Cincinnati, Pittsburg, and Indianapolis on Sunday have made it nearly impossible for any of the four or five win teams to sneak into the playoffs.
Having clinched the AFC East, the Patriots have guaranteed themselves one of the top four seeds and a home playoff game. If the season were to end today, New England would be the number two seed in the AFC despite losing their head to head matchup with Baltimore. By NFL rule in the case of three-way tie, the tie-breaker goes to the team with the better conference record.
Denver and New England have both clinched their divisions and Houston has also clinched a playoff spot. Baltimore is nearly a lock for the playoffs and would have to suffer a collapse nearly as monumental as the 2011 Red Sox in order to miss out on the playoffs entirely. They could have clinched the AFC North title with a win this past week over the rival Steelers who were without star quarterback Ben Roethlisberger or backup Byron Leftwich. Pittsburg, Cincinnati, and Indianapolis will battle it out down the stretch for the last two playoff spots. Indianapolis holds a one game lead but will twice over the final four games of the season have to face a Texans team that is in the hunt for a first round bye and home field advantage throughout the playoffs. Pittsburg and Cincinnatti square off in week 16, a matchup, which could decide which team football from home come January.
Check back later this week for an in depth analysis of New England's chances of receiving a first round bye.
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