NFL playoff picture: How Patriots can clinch in Week 18


It all comes down to next week's regular-season finale as the New England Patriots kept their playoff hopes alive on Sunday.

The Patriots treated the Gillette Stadium crowd to a crucial win over the Miami Dolphins in their final home game of the season. Safety Kyle Dugger came through with the play of the game: a go-ahead pick-six of Dolphins QB Teddy Bridgewater late in the third quarter. From there, Mac Jones added a TD pass to Jakobi Meyers and the Patriots held on to escape with a 23-21 victory.

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New England improved to 8-8 on the season to leapfrog Miami for the No. 7 seed in the AFC. The playoff-clinching scenario for Week 18 is straightforward, but it won't be easy: beat the division-leading Buffalo Bills on the road.

The Pats have lost three consecutive games against Buffalo, including a 47-17 playoff loss at Orchard Park. They lost to the Bills at home in Week 13, 24-10.

New England can sneak into the postseason even with a loss to Buffalo. For that to happen, it will need:

  • Dolphins to lose to Jets.
  • Titans to lose to Jaguars.
  • Steelers to lose to Browns.

Here's a look at the updated AFC playoff picture after Sunday's games.

In a Playoff Spot

  1. Kansas City Chiefs, 13-3 (AFC West winner)
  2. Buffalo Bills, 12-3 (AFC East winner)
  3. Cincinnati Bengals, 11-4 (AFC North leader)
  4. Jacksonville Jaguars, 8-8 (AFC South leader)
  5. Los Angeles Chargers, 10-6 (First wild card)
  6. Baltimore Ravens, 10-6 (Second wild card)
  7. New England Patriots, 8-8 (Third wild card)

On the Bubble

8. Miami Dolphins, 8-8

9. Pittsburgh Steelers, 8-8

10. Tennessee Titans, 7-9

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