When the Broncos lost on Thursday night at home to the Chargers, it seemed the window of opportunity for the Patriots had been flung wide open: Win out and the No. 1 seed in the AFC playoffs was theirs.
With Sunday's 24-20 loss to the Dolphins, that's in all likelihood an opportunity lost for New England. But the Patriots still hold on to the No. 2 seed going into next Sunday, thanks to the Bengals losing to the Steelers, 30-20 Sunday night.
A win over Pittsburgh would have given Marvin Lewis' bunch a record of 10-4 -- same as the Patriots. Because the Bengals beat New England in Week 5, they hold the tiebreaker, meaning if they finish with the same record as the Patriots, they would get the No. 2 seed. That could still become the case over the next two weeks if the Patriots lose again and the Bengals win out.
If the Patriots were to finish third in the conference, it appears as though they would end up facing either the Dolphins or the Ravens -- whichever team finishes with the No. 6 seed -- at home in the Wild Card round.
Well wait a minute, you might be saying. There are still two games left and there's only one win separating the Broncos and the Patriots. There's still an outside chance the Pats could land the No. 1 seed and homefield advantage throughout the playoffs, right?
Yes, technically. But the Broncos are going up against the Texans (2-12) at Houston next week and the Raiders (4-9) in Oakland to finish out the regular season. Both of those should be wins for Denver.
Conversely the Patriots play what looks like it will be yet another close game at Baltimore next week and then host the Bills in Week 17.
The Bengals host the Vikings and then the Ravens in the final two weeks of the season.