NEW YORK — Heading into the final weekend of the regular season, Tom Brady and the New England Patriots have that familiar look that the rest of the NFL has grown accustomed to over the years.
The Patriots remained No. 1 in the AP Pro32 poll on Tuesday , receiving 10 of 12 first-place votes for 381 points in balloting by media members who regularly cover the NFL.
New England (12-3) needs just a win or a Pittsburgh loss to claim home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs again.
“The road to the Super Bowl will undoubtedly go through Foxborough — again — now that the Patriots are one win away from clinching home-field advantage — again — in the AFC playoffs,” Newsday’s Bob Glauber said.
“Rob Gronkowski makes the Bills pay — again — for not drafting the hometown star tight end, as the Pats dominate Buffalo.
“All they need now to clinch the No. 1 seed is a season-ending win over the Jets — a layup if there ever was one.”
The Pittsburgh Steelers and Minnesota Vikings, who received one first-place vote, are tied for No. 2.
“Don’t think Ben Roethlisberger and company wouldn’t relish a rematch against the Patriots, even if it’s in Foxborough with a Super Bowl berth on the line,” Ira Kaufman of SB Nation Radio said of the Steelers.
Despite having the NFL’s best record at 13-2 and home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs, the Philadelphia Eagles, who received the other first-place vote, couldn’t make up any ground and remained No. 4. The Eagles got past the Oakland Raiders 19-10 on Christmas night in a sluggish game.
“Doug Pederson probably has won Coach of the Year, managing to keep winning without Carson Wentz,” said Charean Williams of Pro Football Talk.
“But the Eagles didn’t look like Super Bowl contenders against the Raiders.”
Another NFC division champion, the Los Angeles Rams, maintained its spot in the poll at No. 5.
“Keep hitting high notes,” Fox Sports John Czarnecki said of the NFC West champions.
The New Orleans Saints and Carolina Panthers, tied for first place in the NFC South, followed at No. 6 and No. 7 respectively.
“It has to please Sean Payton how well the defense is finishing the season,” John Clayton of 710-ESPN Seattle said about the Saints coach. “What a turnaround.”
The Jacksonville Jaguars, set to host a playoff game for the first time since the 1999 season, remained at No. 8.
“Does anyone outside of Jags HQ trust Blake Bortles in the playoffs?” asked Alex Marvez of The Sporting News.
The Kansas City Chiefs (No. 9) and Atlanta Falcons flipped places from last week to round out the top 10.