Patriots lock up AFC East without even playing

Thanks to the Miami Dolphins' loss last night at the hands of "Good Eli Manning" and the New York Giants, the Patriots have clinched the AFC East for the seventh consecutive season.

This is the club's 13th division crown in 16 seasons under head coach Bill Belichick and it ensures the Patriots will play at least one home playoff game this year.

Despite locking up the division, New England still has something to play for - home field advantage throughout the playoffs. They currently sit atop the conference as the No. 1 seed, but will need to win at least two of their final three games to stay home for the entirety of the tournament.

Without trying to sound like we're jumping the gun here, they should have no issues beating Tennessee on Sunday, and in all reality they will likely do no worse than the No. 2 seed.

Even though Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton has been listed as week-to-week with a thumb injury he suffered last Sunday against the Steelers, backup quarterback A.J. McCarron will assume the starting role for at least this week when they take on the San Francisco 49ers. That should still be a winnable game for Cincinnati, but we've seen how dismal a good team with a backup quarterback can look (see: Cowboys, Dallas).

They've got Denver the week after that. If Dalton is out for that one, Cincy can pretty much forget about a top 2 seed at that point.

The race is almost over, folks. Brace yourselves.

Follow me on Twitter - @JesseGaunce

For more of my articles, click here.