BOSTON (CBS) — The New England Patriots are going to make the playoffs, but they can make that official as early as Sunday night.

The 10-1 Patriots will visit the 7-4 Houston Texans for a Sunday Night Football clash, a game that will have a playoff-feel to it. The Patriots currently sit atop the AFC, while the Texans are the current No. 3 seed in the conference.

It’s an important game for both teams, but the Pats will have a little added incentive to come away with a W. There are five different scenarios where the Patriots can clinch a posteason berth on Sunday night:

1. New England win, plus Oakland Raiders loss or tie
2. New England win, plus Pittsburgh Steelers loss or tie
3. New England tie, plus Oakland Raiders loss and Pittsburgh Steelers loss
4. New England tie, plus Oakland Raiders loss and Indianapolis Colts loss
5. New England tie, plus Pittsburgh Steelers loss and Indianapolis Colts loss

As you can see, a loss to the Texans would put New England’s postseason berth on hold for at least another week.

As for the scenarios that New England would need help with, the Steelers are hosting the 5-6 Cleveland Browns, the Raiders are visiting the 7-4 Kansas City Chiefs, and the Colts host the Tennessee Titans (both teams are 6-5). But as long as the Patriots win Sunday night, it’s looking likely they’ll be one of the first teams in the NFL to punch their ticket to the playoffs.

In the NFC, both the San Francisco 49ers and New Orleans Saints will have an opportunity to clinch a playoff spot on Sunday.


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