The Patriots lost control of their own destiny for a top-two seed (and first-round bye) in the AFC after falling to the 49ers last Sunday night. But the possibility of earning either the first or second seed in the AFC is still in play for the Patriots, as is the third seed (where they currently stand) and the fourth.
With Week 16 play set to kick off shortly, here's a brief overview of the current playoff standings, as well as some relevant games today that have implications on the Patriots.
1. Houston (12-2, clinched AFC South)
2. Denver (11-3, clinched AFC West)
3. New England (10-4, clinched AFC East)
4. Baltimore (9-5, clinched playoff berth)
5. Indianapolis (9-5)
6. Cincinnati (8-6)
In the mix
7. Pittsburgh (7-7)
8. Miami (8-8)
* Minnesota (8-6) at Houston (12-2), 1 p.m.: The Texans can clinch the top overall seed in the AFC with a win against Minnesota, but a loss would keep the door open for them to fall out of a top-two seed. If Houston were to lose out and the Patriots were to win out, New England would have at least the second seed by virtue of a head-to-head tiebreaker.
* Cleveland (5-9) at Denver (11-3), 4:05 p.m.: Beyond winning their final two games, the Patriots would also need a loss by the Broncos in either Week 16 or 17 to regain control of a top-two seed. If Denver were to lose to the Browns and the Patriots were to win against Jacksonville, the Patriots would take over the second seed in the AFC and be back in line for a first-round bye.
* New York Giants (8-6) at Baltimore (9-5), 4:25 p.m.: If the Patriots take care of business against the Jaguars and the Ravens lose to the Giants, the Patriots would clinch at least a top-three seed in the AFC. The Ravens have been sliding of late and are no lock to win the AFC North. Today they'll look to avoid their fourth straight loss.