1. Pats win over Steelers + Dolphins loss to Vikings = PLAYOFFS.
New England lost more than just the game last Sunday. They also lost out on an opportunity to win their 10th straight division championship, which would have extended their own NFL record.
Returning to the shellshocked visitors’ locker room at Hard Rock Stadium after such a stunning last-second loss must have been brutal for the players – especially considering they were so close to celebrating a division title, and on enemy turf to boot.
If there’s a silver lining, it’s that they get another crack at winning the AFC East this Sunday, and again, it comes on hostile ground. The Patriots won the division last year this very same week of the season against this very same team in this very same stadium, so they know it’s readily attainable.
Beating the Steelers is only half of the equation though. Since Miami and New England split their season series, the Patriots would need to win on Sunday and have the Dolphins lose to the Vikings in order to clinch the division. Minnesota is currently an 83% favorite to win at home, which bodes well until you consider the abysmal performance they just put up against the Seahawks on Monday Night Football.
Hopefully Kirk Cousins and the Vikings offense can rebound in time to actually put up some points on Sunday. The Dolphins’ defense is nowhere near as stout as Seattle’s, and the ferocious Minnesota D-line should make life miserable for Ryan Tannehill and the Miami rushing attack.
The Miami/Minnesota game will have finished by the time New England/Pittsburgh kicks off, so the Pats will know if they’re playing for the division title or not at game time. If indeed they are, it’ll be all the more motivation for the team to pick up a W in Pittsburgh and return home division champions, their playoff spot secured.