Heading into Week 13 with a 10-1 record, the New England Patriots are on the cusp of clinching a playoff birth with five games of the regular season left to play. One would think they would have already done it, but because of a competitive Buffalo Bills team this season and some other AFC contenders, the Patriots could actually be bumped from No. 1 to No. 4 or even No. 5 in the playoff seedings if they have an awful finish to the regular season.
With that being said, with a win and a loss or tie by a few AFC teams this week, New England will clinch a playoff berth. Here are the five different ways the reigning Super Bowl champs can claim their spot in the postseason in Week 13:
1. Patriots win + Raiders lose OR tie
2. Patriots win + Steelers lose OR tie
3. Patriots tie + Raiders lose AND Steelers lose
4. Patriots tie + Raiders lose AND Colts lose
5. Patriots tie + Steelers lose AND Colts lose
The key for New England in Week 13 is to come out with a win or tie. That will solidify them finishing the regular season with a record that includes five or less losses. That matters because if the Patriots win and Oakland or Pittsburgh lose this week, the latter two teams will have six losses on their 2019 record, which will ensure that the Patriots will land no farther down the AFC standings than those two teams. If New England comes out with a tie against the Texans this week they need a combo of the Raiders and Steelers, Raiders and Colts, or Steelers and Colts to lose their respective games to ensure that those teams finish the regular season with more losses than the Patriots.
Pittsburgh will face the Cleveland Browns in an AFC North clash this week. Oakland faces Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs in an AFC West matchup. Lastly, the Colts will have an AFC South matchup against the Tennessee Titans. It would not be surprising at all if the Raiders, Steelers and Colts came out with a loss in Week 13. However, the Patriots still need to defeat or at the very least tie the AFC South-leading Texans on Sunday Night Football to ensure a playoff berth heading into Week 14.