The Patriots didn't get much help in other games on Sunday, leaving them needing to win Sunday night against the 49ers in order to hold onto the No. 2 seed -- which carries with it a first-round bye -- in the AFC playoff hunt.
IN BALTIMORE, the Broncos pretty much ended the Ravens' hopes of gaining a bye in the first round -- but certainly enhanced their own -- with a convincing 34-17 victory. It was Denver's ninth straight win and increased the Broncos' record to 11-3. They are temporarily one-half game ahead of the Patriots, who enter Sunday night's game at 10-3. But if the Pats win, they regain the No. 2 position by virtue of their head-to-head win over Denver earlier this year.
The injury-ravaged Ravens, meanwhile, fall to 9-5. It's mathematically possible for there to be a three-way tie, at 11-5, for the No. 2 seed between Baltimore, Denver and New England, but that might go to the fifth or sixth tiebreaker to determine who gets second seed. And since that involves strength of victory or strength of schedule, it may be impossible to determine who'd be number two in that scenario as of this moment.
IN HOUSTON, the Texans clinched the AFC South title by beating the mistake-prone Colts, 29-17. They also maintained their hold on the No. 1 seed in the conference by increasing their record to 12-2. If the Patriots win out, however, Houston will also have to win out to stay at No. 1; the Pats have the head-to-head edge on the Texans, as well.
If it ends up with a three-way tie between Houston, New England and Denver for the No. 1 seed, the Pats would win the tiebreaker.