Patriots clinch another AFC East title
The Patriots own the AFC East title again.
New England won its ninth division crown in the 11 seasons Tom Brady has been the starting quarterback, beating Denver, 41-23, on Sunday. The Patriots (11-3) are in position to gain a first-round playoff bye or even home-field advantage in the AFC, especially with South division winner Houston falling to 10-4 with a loss to Carolina.
-- Baltimore and Pittsburgh, who were tied for the AFC North lead at 10-3 heading into Week 15, also earned postseason berths before even taking the field. The Ravens, who lost to San Diego Sunday night, got in thanks to losses by the Jets, Raiders and Titans. The Steelers, who play tonight at San Francisco, used a similar route.
-- In the NFC, Green Bay (13-1) finally lost but already has the North crown and a first-round bye. The Packers need one more victory to clinch home-field advantage throughout the conference playoffs.
-- The 49ers (10-3) already have won the West and are battling New Orleans (11-3), which leads the South, for the other first-round bye. The Saints have a two-game division lead over Atlanta.
-- Dallas (8-6) grabbed back the NFC East lead when it beat Tampa Bay and the Giants lost to Washington. Still, the Giants (7-7) will win the division if they sweep their final two games, against the Jets and Cowboys. Barring that, Dallas takes the division.
But Philadelphia (6-8), which beat the Jets on Sunday to hurt New York’s wild-card chances, also can win the division—only if the Eagles win at Dallas and at home against Washington, and the Giants to lose to the Jets before beating the Cowboys.
-- Everyone in the AFC West was still alive, but Denver’s loss wasn’t too damaging because Oakland (7-7) fell to Detroit. The Broncos have a one-game lead with two left: at Buffalo (5-9) and home for Kansas City (6-8).
-- The AFC wild-card races
couldn’t be more muddled. Either Pittsburgh or Baltimore, whichever finishes second in the North, will get one spot. The other will go to either the Bengals (8-6), Jets (8-6), Raiders, Titans (7-7) or Chargers (6-7).
-- Atlanta and Detroit have control in the NFC wild-card races. Each is 9-5 and could get in even with two losses. A victory by each sews up those spots.