If the Pats win out (13-3) they clinch a bye (#1 if Denver loses one game).
If the Pats win 2/3 (12-4) they have to hope Cincinnati loses at least one game.
What would happen if the Pats finish 11-5?
Based on what I've seen recently, it wouldn't shock me to see the Pats losing their next two games, both on the road. They will beat Buffalo at home, otherwise, any discussion about the 2013 Pats would be rendered academic.
Assume a bad case scenario: losing at Miami and at Baltimore and winning vs Buffalo, we can throw the #1 seed into the trash bin. That leaves Cincinnati and Indianapolis. The inexcusable loss to the Jets is haunting the team.
Here's what to look for if the Pats finish 11-5...
Tiebreaker: Beat Patriots 13-6
Reasons for Optimism: The Bengals have not been the same since Geno Atkins was lost for the season. Atkins was the #1 ranked DT according to PFF. Losing an elite player on D is always crushing. In their last 5, the Bengals are 3-2 with a 3 game win streak. That said, the only team they beat with a winning record are the Colts, losers of 3 of their last 5 games. The Bengals have had trouble in their division and it wouldn't surprise me to see them lose 2 of their last 3. The Steelers and Vikings have been playing hard in recent weeks, while the Ravens will be fighting for their lives.
Reasons for Pessimism: Cincy can afford one loss. Whether you play hard or not, you are what your record says you are. With that said, the Steelers and Vikings both suck. Cincy has the Ravens at home.
- @Kansas City
Tiebreaker: Colts AFC (9-3) / Pats AFC (8-4)
Reasons for Optimism: Indy must win out. Indy has looked awful over the last 5 weeks (2-3) with both of their wins against the sinking Titans. Houston has, in recent years, pushed Indy to the brink. Their first meeting in 2013, the Colts won at Houston, 27-24. The Chiefs will be playing at home and beating the Colts will garner some good will with their fans. Jacksonville has won 4 of their last 5 and with the Bills and Titans coming to town, it's highly likely that the Jags will be riding a 5-game win streak into Indy. They will be motivated.
Reasons for Pessimism: Houston may play Indy tough again, but will likely lose. That would be par for the course for this rivalry. After getting swept by Denver, the Chiefs will be playing a meaningless game, assuming they win at Oakland this week. Despite their late season surge that began in week 10, the Jags played only one team with a winning record, and lost (Cardinals 27-14).
What if there's a 3-way tie?
Simple. Cincinnati wins by beating the 2 other teams in the regular season.