Despite playing with what has seemed like the tattered shreds of a defense for much of the 2011 NFL season, the New England Patriots are still in line to clinch home-field advantage in Week 17.
All the Patriots have to do to make sure that they won't leave Gillette Stadium in the AFC playoffs is win or tie against the Bills; that would move New England to 13-3 (or 12-3-1) on the year and secure the No. 1 seed in the AFC playoffs. The Patriots can also earn the first seed if they lose, but only if the Ravens and Steelers, both 11-4 heading into the final week of the regular season, both fall as well.
Of course, the Patriots had the No. 1 seed in the AFC in 2010, too, and were unceremoniously ousted from the playoffs in the divisional round by the New York Jets. Home-field advantage is nice, but Bill Belichick and Co. know it guarantees nothing.