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How The Patriots Can Clinch A Playoff Berth -- And The AFC East -- In Week 16

FOXBORO (CBS) -- The Patriots had a chance to clinch the AFC East last weekend, but... well we won't get into that. They have a chance to clinch this week when they host the Buffalo Bills in a massive AFC East showdown.

And even if they don't clinch the division, which would require some help on Monday night, the Patriots can still clinch a playoff spot on Sunday.

Clinching the AFC East is fairly simple for the Pats. Beat the Bills on Sunday, and then hope the Dolphins lose to or tie the Saints in New Orleans on Monday night. That's it.

Should the Patriots beat the Bills on Sunday and the Dolphins beat the Saints to close Week 16, New England would have to wait another week for another shot to clinch the AFC East. With a matchup against the 2-12 Jacksonville Jaguars, that wait will likely end in Week 17.

But New England can still claim a playoff spot on Sunday with a little bit of help. Ok, a whole lot of help.

First, the Patriots would obviously need to beat the Bills. That's a must if the team wants to clinch anything this weekend.

Here is what else would have to happen for New England to clinch a playoff berth on Sunday:

- A win plus a Las Vegas Raiders loss or tie to Denver AND a Los Angeles Chargers loss in Houston

- A win plus an Indianapolis Colts loss or tie in Arizona AND  a Cincinnati Bengals loss to Baltimore

- A win plus an Indianapolis loss or tie AND a Baltimore Ravens loss AND a Pittsburgh Steelers loss or tie in Kansas City

- A win plus an Indianapolis loss or tie AND a Los Angles Chargers loss

- A win plus a Baltimore loss AND a Cleveland Browns loss or tie at Green Bay AND a Pittsburgh loss or tie

All of this goes out the window if the Bills get their revenge against the Patriots on Sunday. The scenarios would get a lot murkier should that happen, with the Bills then owning the inside track to win the division. The Patriots would then have to settle for a Wild Card spot, and a home playoff game would go bye-bye.

But win this weekend, and the Patriots are sitting pretty heading into the final two weeks of the season, and they'd even have an outside shot at the AFC's No. 1 seed.


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