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Wednesday, December 11, 2013
Sizing up the AFC playoff picture

By Field Yates

With three regular-season games remaining, the Patriots have several avenues to clinch a postseason berth.

It could happen Sunday, as a win against Miami would give them their fifth straight AFC East title, while a Baltimore loss (against Detroit) would secure a playoff berth for the Patriots.

Below is a look at the AFC playoff picture, with remaining opponents and statuses for each team that is in the mix.

1. x-Denver (11-2) -- vs. San Diego, @ Houston, @ Oakland
2. New England (10-3) -- @ Miami, @ Baltimore, vs. Buffalo
3. Cincinnati (9-4) -- @ Pittsburgh, vs. Minnesota, vs. Baltimore
4. z-Indianapolis (8-5) -- vs. Houston, @ Kansas City, vs. Jacksonville

5. Kansas City (10-3) -- @ Oakland, vs. Indianapolis, @ San Diego
6. Baltimore (7-6) -- @ Detroit, vs. New England, @ Cincinnati

7. Miami (7-6) -- vs. New England, @ Buffalo, vs. New York Jets
8. San Diego (6-7) -- @ Denver, vs. Oakland, vs. Kansas City
9. New York Jets (6-7) -- @ Carolina, vs. Cleveland, @ Miami
Notes: x = playoff berth clinched; z = division title clinched

Beyond a division title or playoff berth, the Patriots also can secure one of the top two seeds in the conference. They hold the tiebreaker over the Broncos but not the Bengals (based on head-to-head play).

With two games left against teams vying for a spot in the postseason and a finale against a division foe, the home stretch won't be easy for the Patriots, but they can put themselves in a very good spot entering the postseason with a strong finish.