Patriots out of running for top seed in AFC originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston
A one-year postseason drought is over for the New England Patriots, but the team is out of the running for the coveted first-round bye prior to taking the field in Week 18.
Thanks to a 28-24 win for the Kansas City Chiefs over the Denver Broncos on Saturday afternoon, the Patriots can no longer earn the No. 1 seed in the AFC playoff picture and the first-round bye that comes with it.
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New England can still finish as high as the No. 2 seed, but with the NFL having expanded the postseason to seven teams per conference since the team’s last visit, it will still be playing on wild-card weekend. In order to finish second, the Patriots will have to beat the Dolphins while both the Buffalo Bills and Tennessee Titans lose to the New York Jets and Houston Texans, two of the worst teams in the NFL, respectively.
Since the Titans-Texans game is at 1 p.m. Sunday and the Patriots don’t play the Dolphins until 4:25 p.m., they will in all likelihood know if the No. 2 seed is still in play by the time they kick off. The Bills-Jets game is also at 4:25, however, meaning the Patriots will take the field with the division and a seed between Nos. 2-4 still in play.
A loss to the Dolphins would ensure New England a wild-card spot, but even with a win, the Patriots will be seeded fifth through seventh unless the Bills lose to the Jets.
The playoff picture will continue to come into focus over the course of the day on Sunday, but we know New England won’t be the top seed in the AFC for what would have been the ninth time under Bill Belichick. The team also finished atop the AFC in the regular season in 2003, 2004, 2007, 2010, 2011, 2014, 2016 and 2017, making the Super Bowl in all but one of those years and winning it four times. The Patriots were the No. 2 seed in 2001, 2012, 2013, 2015 and 2018, going to the Super Bowl and winning it twice.