AFC Playoff Picture: Why Patriots may actually want the No. 2 seed

Share

If you're here, you probably know the Los Angeles Chargers' wild win over the Kansas City Chiefs on Thursday night benefited the New England Patriots.

A quick glance at the AFC standings as of Friday explains why: If the 9-4 Patriots win out, they still have a chance to earn the No. 1 seed if the 11-3 Chiefs and 11-3 Chargers each lose one more game.

*1. Chiefs 11-3
2. Patriots 9-4
3. Texans 9-4
4. Steelers 7-5-1
*5. Chargers 11-3
6. Ravens 7-6
*Clinched postseason berth

With us so far? Good.

But what if we told you New England actually might prefer the No. 2 seed?

That's right: There are two scenarios in which the Patriots have an "easier" path to the Super Bowl if they enter the playoffs as the No. 2 seed.

Let's break them down. 

Scenario #1: Chargers as No. 1 seed

Final AFC Standings: No. 1 Chargers, No. 2 Patriots, No. 3 Texans, No. 4 Steelers, No. 5 Chiefs, No. 6 Ravens

Wild Card Round: No. 3 Texans vs. No. 6 Ravens, No. 4 Steelers vs. No. 5 Chiefs

Divisional Round: Chargers vs. Chiefs, Patriots vs. Texans

AFC Championship Game: Patriots at Chargers OR Patriots vs. Chiefs

If the Kansas City loses in Seattle next Sunday night and the Chargers knock off the Ravens and Broncos in Weeks 16 and 17, L.A. gets the No. 1 seed.

In that scenario, the Chiefs would drop to No. 5. They'd likely still be favored in their road Wild Card matchup, however, and a win there would set up a rematch with the Chargers. (The No. 1 seed plays the lowest remaining seed in the Divisional Round.)

If the Texans beat the No. 6 seed and lose in New England in the Divisional Round, the AFC Championship Game would be either a Patriots home contest against the lower-seeded Chiefs or a road tilt against the Chargers -- who play in a 27,000-seat soccer stadium.

That's not exactly Arrowhead Stadium.

Furthermore, if the Los Angeles Rams advance to the NFC Championship Game, the city of L.A. could host two Championship Games on the same day -- and we'd imagine most folks would head to the L.A. Memorial Coliseum.

Seems like a winnable scenario for the Patriots, no?

Scenario #2: Chiefs as No. 1 seed

Final AFC Standings: No. 1 Chiefs, No. 2 Patriots, No. 3 Texans, No. 4 Steelers, No. 5 Chargers, No. 6 Ravens

Wild Card Round: No. 3 Texans vs. No. 6 Ravens, No. 4 Steelers vs. No. 5 Chargers

Divisional Round: Chiefs vs. Chargers, Patriots vs. Texans

AFC Championship Game: Patriots at Chiefs OR Patriots vs. Chargers

If Kansas City wins out, it gets the No. 1 seed. That's the most likely regular-season scenario.

But that also ensures the Patriots (assuming they hold onto the No. 2 seed) don't have to face the Chiefs or Chargers until the Championship Game.

Yes, a trip to Kansas City for the AFC title game is the worst possible scenario for New England. But if the Chargers can upset the Chiefs on the road -- which they literally just did Thursday night -- the Patriots get another Championship Game at home if they win the Divisional Round.

Of course, if New England somehow earns the No. 1 seed, it's guaranteed home-field advantage. However -- that also sets up a likely Divisional Round matchup against K.C. or L.A.

Quickly, here's how things could play out with the Patriots as the No. 1 seed:

Scenario #3: Patriots as No. 1 seed

Final AFC Standings: No. 1 Patriots, No. 2 Chiefs, No. 3 Texans, No. 4 Steelers, No. 5 Chargers, No. 6 Ravens

Wild Card Round: No. 3 Texans vs. No. 6 Ravens, No. 4 Steelers vs. No. 5 Chargers

Divisional Round: Patriots vs. Chargers, Chiefs vs. Texans

AFC Championship Game: Patriots vs. Chiefs OR Patriots vs. Texans

Again, the loser of the AFC West (Chargers or Chiefs) likely still would be favored in their Wild Card matchup, and if they win, they'd play the No. 1 Patriots in the Divisional Round as the lowest remaining seed (assuming Houston beats the No. 6 seed).

Yes, it's a home game, but you could argue scenarios No. 1 and No. 2 present New England's best (and safest) road to Super Bowl LIII. 

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Celtics easily on your device.

 

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

Contact Us