Patriots could be any of top four seeds

December, 23, 2012
12/23/12
7:44
PM ET
With AFC play wrapped up in Week 16, we know exactly what's at stake for the Patriots entering the final game of the regular season. And, almost unbelievably, the Patriots could wind up with any of the top four seeds.

Here's a look at the current AFC standings and Week 17 opponents:

Division leaders
1. Houston (12-3, clinched AFC South; at Indianapolis)
2. Denver (12-3, clinched AFC West; vs. Kansas City)
3. New England (11-4, clinched AFC East; vs. Miami)
4. Baltimore (10-5, clinched AFC North; at Cincinnati)

Wild cards
5. Indianapolis (10-5, clinched fifth seed; vs. Houston)
6. Cincinnati (9-6, clinched sixth seed; vs. Baltimore)

The AFC's six playoff teams are set in stone. But the order of the top four seeds? Not so much.

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Which playoff seed do you think the Patriots will end up with?

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Discuss (Total votes: 7,161)

Here's how the Patriots can achieve each of the four seeds.

1st overall seed: The Patriots need to win and have both Houston and Denver lose. That would put all three teams at 12-4, and the Patriots would get the top spot because they beat both the Texans and Broncos. Houston would get the No. 2 seed because it beat the Broncos in Week 3.

2nd overall seed: If the Patriots win to go 12-4 and either Houston or Denver loses to fall to 12-4, the Patriots would be the No. 2 seed by virtue of the head-to-head tiebreaker.

3rd overall seed: If the Patriots, Broncos and Texans all win, the Patriots will stay put at the third seed.

4th overall seed: If the Patriots lose and the Ravens win, the Patriots will fall to the fourth seed.

As for potential wild-card round matchups if the Patriots finish with the third or fourth seed, they would face either the Bengals or Colts. The Colts are locked into the fifth seed, meaning the Patriots would have to finish fourth to play Indianapolis. If the Patriots finish third, they will host the Bengals in the wild-card round.
Field Yates has previous experience interning with the New England Patriots on both their coaching and scouting staffs. A graduate of Wesleyan University (CT), he is a regular contributor to ESPN Boston's Patriots coverage and ESPN Insider.

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