In an ideal NFL world the Patriots’ Week 17 game Sunday against Buffalo (4:25 p.m., CBS) would be meaningless. But the league purposely began pitting division foes against one another in the final week a few years back, assuring that most every game on the slate in late December or early January would have playoff implications.
While the Patriots have the division sewn up, divisional matchups across the AFC board will factor in to where they ultimately land in the playoff picture. The Pats could end up as the No. 1, No. 2, No. 3 or No. 4 seed.
Here is the Cliff Notes version of the Pats seed potential:
No. 1 seed: Win vs. Buffalo, Broncos lose to 4-11 Raiders (Unlikely)
No. 2 seed: Win vs. Buffalo, Broncos beat Raiders (Most likely)
No. 3 seed: Loss vs. Buffalo, one win by either Bengals or Colts (Highly unlikely)
No. 4 seed: Loss vs. Buffalo, wins by both Bengals and Colts (Highly unlikely)
The Bengals play the Ravens (1 p.m.), who will once again be battling for their playoff lives in Cincy. The Colts should walk over the 4-11 Jaguars at home.
The Patriots could also back into the second seed if they lose to Buffalo and both Cincy and Indy loses.
Follow Metro Boston sports editor Matt Burke on Twitter @BurkeMetroBOS