Here’s every possible playoff scenario for the Patriots entering Week 18

The Patriots can still land in any of the AFC's seven seeds.

Bill Belichick and the Patriots will know where they stand entering the AFC playoffs by Sunday evening. Jim Davis/Globe Staff

As the NFL enters the final week of the regular season, the Patriots know one thing ahead of their matchup against the Dolphins: they will be playing another week.

New England clinched a playoff berth in Week 17 after missing the playoffs for the first time in 12 years in 2020. But the Patriots don’t know when and where their first playoff game will be and who it will be against.

And that’s the fun, or confusing, part for the Patriots going into Week 18. They can still end up in any of the seven seeded slots in the AFC – even the No. 1 seed.


Some of the possible scenarios are pretty simple. If the Patriots win on Sunday, they’ll have the fifth seed or better for the playoffs. If they win and the Bills lose to the Jets, they’ll win the AFC East and will have at least one home playoff game. However, if the Bills win, the Patriots will be stuck playing on the road in the Wild Card Round no matter what happens in their game against the Dolphins.

There are some things to keep in mind entering the NFL’s Week 18 slate. Neither the Bengals nor Browns will play their starting quarterbacks in their matchup against each other on Sunday. While the result of Sunday’s Bengals-Browns game likely won’t determine what seed the Patriots finish with, it could determine who they face in the first round. If the Patriots and Bills win on Sunday and the Bengals lose, the Patriots will have a Wild Card Round date in Cinicinnati. If the Patriots, Bills, and Bengals all win, a rubber match between the Patriots and Bills will take place in Buffalo next weekend.

Here’s what it would take for the Patriots to land in every possible seeding slot.

No. 1 seed

  • A Patriots win over the Dolphins, a Chiefs loss to the Broncos, a Titans loss to the Texans, and a Bills loss to the Jets.

No. 2 seed:

  • Patriots win, Chiefs win, Titans loss, and Bills loss.
  • Patriots win, Broncos win, Titans win, and Bills loss.

No. 3 seed:

  • Patriots win, Chiefs win, Titans win, and Bills loss.

No. 4 seed:

  • Patriots tie, a Bengals win over the Browns, and a Bills loss.

No. 5 seed:

  • Patriots win and Bills win.
  • Patriots loss, Colts loss to the Jaguars, and a Chargers win over the Raiders.

No. 6 seed:

  • Patriots loss, Colts win, and Chargers win.
  • Patriots loss, Colts loss, and Raiders win.

No. 7 seed:

  • Patriots loss, Colts win, and Raiders win.


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