FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- The Patriots might be the best team in the AFC in the minds of most after their rout of the Texans, but the road to the Super Bowl might still run through Houston.
The 10-3 Patriots control their own destiny for a first-round bye, thanks to a victory over the 10-3 Denver Broncos earlier in the season. If the teams finish with the same record, the Patriots would get the No. 2 seed and the all-important pass into the divisional round of the playoffs.
But the Texans still have a one-game edge over the Patriots at 11-2. Despite a tough schedule to finish the season -- Houston faces the 9-4 Colts twice and the 7-6 Vikings once -- the Texans are still the favorites to hold on to the No. 1 seed, at least according to AccuScore projections.
The Texans take the top seed in 63 percent of 10,000 AccuScore simulations of the final three weeks of the season, while the Patriots end up No. 1 in 36 percent of sims.
Still, even gaining the No. 2 seed is critical for the Patriots, not only because of the bye on wild-card weekend, but because it means they’ll host a divisional-round game, quite possibly against Peyton Manning and the surging Broncos, who have won eight straight. Imagine if the tables are turned and the Patriots not only have to play on wild-card weekend but then head to Denver for the divisional round? The road is much tougher as a No. 3 seed.
The Baltimore Ravens, meanwhile, are a game behind the Patriots and Broncos at 9-4. New England would lose a head-to-head tiebreaker with the Ravens if the teams finished with the same record.
Here is a look at the remaining games for the AFC’s top teams and the combined record of their opponents: