Tom Brady and the New England Patriots clinched the AFC East division title in Week 15, and the Buffalo Bills and Miami Dolphins have already been mathematically eliminated, but the New York Jets are currently clinging to the final wildcard sport. While the Bills and Dolphins found out they can focus on the NFL draft in Week 14, the Jets are listed as the final wildcard team due to a better record against common opponents (3-2 vs. 2-2) when compared to the Cincinnati Bengals.
As for the Patriots, they currently sit atop the AFC seeding and are eyeing home-field advantage throughout the playoffs, along with a first-round bye. The problem for the Patriots is that if they end up with the same record as the Pittsburgh Steelers, Big Ben and company hold the tie-breaker due to a head-to-head victory over the Pats back in Week 8.
If the Steelers lose or tie on Monday Night against the San Francisco 49ers, the Patriots will control their own destiny with regard to the No. 1 seed. Otherwise, New England will need help from the Steelers, who finish with a rather cushy schedule after Monday Night (vs. STL, at CLE). When it comes to a first round bye, the Pats will be a top-two seed if they win out, so they do have some measure of control over their own destiny.
|AFC Playoff Picture|
|1||* New England||11||3||3-1||8-2|
Outside Looking In
If there is a tie between two teams for a Wildcard berth, here is the tie-breaker procedure (via NFL.com):
- Head-to-head, if applicable.
- Best won-lost-tied percentage in games played within the conference.
- Best won-lost-tied percentage in common games, minimum of four.
- Strength of victory.
- Strength of schedule.
If there is a tie between three or more teams for a Wildcard spot, it is the same process as above except head-to-head and division record are used to eliminate teams within the same division before moving on to the listed tie-breakers.
For more on the 2011 NFL playoffs, visit the SB Nation NFL Playoff Race Stream.