UPDATE: The Patriots can no longer obtain the No. 1 seed in the AFC. They had a chance to vault to the top spot in the conference if the Chiefs and Chargers both lost. The Chargers ended up beating the Broncos, while the Chiefs beat the Raiders. Kansas City secured the No. 1 seed with the win over Oakland.
The New England Patriots have punched their ticket to a first-round bye by way of today’s 38-3 win over the New York Jets.
The No. 1 seed remains a hope for the Patriots, too. That’s a gigantic boost for a Patriots team went a perfect 8-0 at Gillette Stadium this season versus a 3-5 mark away from The Razor. But help must first come from two seemingly unlikely sources, as the Patriots will need losses from both the Kansas City Chiefs (11-4) and Los Angeles Chargers (11-4).
Or, in other words, you will now become an Oakland Raiders and Denver Broncos superfan for the next three hours or so.
First, the Raiders must defeat the Chiefs. This seems like a huge ask, especially when you look at the records of each team, with the Chiefs entering play at 11-4 and the Raiders coming into action with just four wins on the season.
But the Raiders have played better of late, with victories in two of their last three games, and losing by just seven points in their Dec. 2 meeting with the Chiefs. But Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs enter play with a 6-1 record at Arrowhead Stadium this season, and will surely have a noisy crowd on deck for this one, especially with the No. 1 seed on the line.
In Denver, meanwhile, Pats fans will need an AFC West upset sweep by way of a 6-9 Broncos win over the Chargers.
Now, it goes without saying that the Chargers are lightyears better than the Broncos. It also doesn’t help that the Broncos come into action with losses in three straight games, and against the sucky trifecta of the 49ers, Browns, and Raiders. But if there’s one thing working in Denver’s favor in this game, it’s that the Chargers have dropped five straight games in Denver.
Without those wins from the underdogs, the Patriots will be the No. 2 seed in the AFC postseason picture, meaning that a win in the AFC Divisional Round at Gillette Stadium could see them have to travel for the AFC Championship Game in either Los Angeles or Kansas City. The Patriots have had to travel for the AFC Championship Game just five times in the Bill Belichick Era, having won just two of those five games that have come away from the friendly confines of Gillette.
Of course, though, the Patriots will worry about that potential road trip if and when the time comes.