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Patriots earn second seed in AFC

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- The Patriots have earned the second seed in the AFC and a first-round bye in the playoffs after defeating the Dolphins 28-0 in Week 17 to conclude the regular season at 12-4.

After the Texans fell to the Colts earlier in the day, the door was opened for the Patriots to capture a top-two seed in the conference. Because the Broncos defeated the Chiefs today, they will be the top overall seed in the AFC and will have home-field advantage throughout the playoffs after finishing 13-3.

Here's a look at the final AFC playoff standings and the wild-card round matchups, which will be played next weekend (day/time TBD).

1. Denver (13-3, AFC West champion)

2. New England (12-4, AFC East champion)

3. Houston (12-4, AFC South champion)

4. Baltimore (10-6, AFC North champion)

5. Indianapolis (11-5, wild card)

6. Cincinnati (10-6, wild card)

Wild-card round matchups: Cincinnati at Houston; Indianapolis at Baltimore

The bye means the Patriots will have a week to rest up and begin preparations for one of three potential divisional-round opponents. The Patriots will next take the field on the weekend of Jan. 12-13, and will play the highest remaining seed between the two winners from the wild-card weekend.

That means they will host either Houston, Baltimore or Indianapolis, all teams the Patriots already have played this season. The Patriots fell to the Ravens 31-30 back in Week 3, defeated the Colts 59-24 in Week 11, and beat the Texans 42-14 in Week 14.

The NFL is likely to release the full schedule for wild-card weekend later tonight.