ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- With the Patriots clinching the AFC East title, it puts them one step closer to knowing who their final two opponents will be in the 2011 season.
As part of the rotating schedule formula, all teams know every opponent but two entering each season. The final two opponents are determined by order of finish.
Here is the breakdown for New England in 2011 (playing the AFC West and NFC East):
AFC South team finishing in same spot in standings
AFC North team finishing in same spot in standings
So if the Colts win at home Sunday against the Titans (likely), and the Steelers win on the road at Cleveland (also likely), those two teams would finish atop their divisions.
That would mean another Patriots home date against the Colts and another trip to Pittsburgh for the team.
EXTRA POINT: One of the common questions about the 2011 schedule has been why the Chiefs game will be at Gillette, as they traveled to New England in 2008. Ditto for the Patriots trip to Oakland. The normal rotation would be for the Patriots to be for the Patriots to travel to Kansas City and for the Raiders to travel to New England, but the league altered the rotation for 2011, re-setting parts of it (see comments from this blog post for past discussion on the topic).