NFL playoff scenarios: Here's how Patriots can still earn AFC's No. 1 seed

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Here's how Patriots can still earn AFC's No. 1 seed in Week 18 originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

The New England Patriots moved up from the No. 6 seed to the No. 5 seed in the AFC playoff race after the results of Sunday's Week 17 games.

The Patriots dominated the Jacksonville Jaguars 50-10 in their matchup at Gillette Stadium. That win, combined with the Miami Dolphins losing to the Tennessee Titans, clinched a playoff berth for New England. The Indianapolis Colts losing to the Las Vegas Raiders moved the Patriots ahead of Indy and into the first wild card spot.

New England could move even further up the AFC standings on the final weekend of the regular season. A Patriots win over the Miami Dolphins in Week 18, plus a Buffalo Bills loss to the New York Jets, would give the Pats the AFC East title.

Curran: Win over hapless Jaguars open to interpretation for Patriots

It's also still possible that New England could vault all the way up to the No. 1 seed and secure a first-round playoff bye.

Here's what needs to happen for the Patriots to finish the regular season as the top seed in the AFC:

  • Patriots beat Dolphins

  • Texans beat the Titans

  • Broncos beat Chiefs

  • Jets beat Bills

The odds of all four games going in the Patriots' favor are incredibly slim. In fact, FiveThirtyEight's predictive model gives the Patriots a 0.3 percent chance to earn the No. 1 seed. The Titans, Chiefs and Bills are all favored by 9.5 or more points in Week 18, via PointsBet's latest betting odds

The most likely scenario is the Patriots beating the Dolphins and remaining as the No. 5 seed entering the playoffs. In that situation, they would travel on the road for the AFC Wild Card Round, and their most likely opponent would be the Bills. It's also possible that the Patriots could travel to Cincinnati to open the playoffs if the Bengals lose Sunday and the Bills win.

While the Patriots already have clinched a postseason berth, there's still something to play for in Week 18, which means beating the Dolphins remains a very important objective.