When the Patriots fell to 6-6 after losing to the Buffalo Bills on Thursday night, their chances to make the playoffs significantly dropped, but their fate changed after week 13’s slate of games on Sunday, as a few key losses in the AFC created a path to make the postseason.
The AFC East remains the most competitive division in the league, and two big losses by the Jets and Dolphins couldn’t have come at a better time. The Vikings dominated the division, sweeping the East with their final win over the Jets. The Dolphins have been a powerful team for several weeks now but could not defeat the third-string quarterback-led 49ers team in San Francisco.
Then came help from the Raiders, a future opponent for the Patriots in week 15. Their win over the Chargers moved the Los Angeles team from a wild card spot to falling below New England with a record of 6-6. But the Raiders’ win also throws a wrench into the mix for when they meet the Patriots in two weeks.
Despite starting the season 2-7, Las Vegas has won their last three games. If the Patriots and Raiders win their games in week 14, their matchup will have significant playoff implications for both teams. Playing against a team coached by a former member of Bill Belichick’s staff isn’t ideal for the Patriots, especially with so much on the line. And if they can’t perform better than what was seen last Thursday, beating the Raiders may not matter come week 15.
Before then, however, the Patriots are in the midst of preparing for their trip to the desert to play the Arizona Cardinals on Monday Night Football on December 12th. The Raiders’ next game will also be on the road as they head south to play the Rams on Thursday night.
Current AFC playoff standings – division leaders:
- 1. Buffalo Bills: 9-3
- 2. Kansas City Chiefs: 9-3
- 3. Baltimore Ravens: 8-4
- 4. Tennessee Titans: 7-5
Wild card teams:
- 5. Cincinnati Bengals: 8-4
- 6. Miami Dolphins: 8-4
- 7. New York Jets: 7-5
Teams in the hunt:
- 8. New England Patriots: 6-6
- 9. Los Angeles Chargers: 6-6
- 10. Las Vegas Raiders: 5-7
As for the rest of the season, the Patriots’ schedule will not be an easy one. They’re set to face three AFC teams currently in the playoff picture (Bengals, Dolphins, Bills) while also playing three of the remaining five games on the road.
Although there’s a lot of pessimism surrounding their season, there is still a path for them to secure a wild card spot during the final weeks of the year. Whether or not they can make it happen is yet to be seen, but at least the opportunity isn’t gone, regardless of their latest loss.