AFC Playoff Picture: Patriots’ chances took a hit after an unpromising Thanksgiving week
November 28th, 2022
The AFC playoff picture is morphing week-by-week in a tight conference battle for seeding, and that’s especially true for a team like the Patriots, who are among those jockeying for wild card spots. Unfortunately for New England, the changes from Thanksgiving week did not go the Patriots’ way.
That’s not just because the Pats lost to the Minnesota Vikings last Thursday night, and there’s little shame in losing by one possession, on the road, on a short week, against a team with legitimate talent. It’s because most of their chief competition in the AFC playoff race won.
The Miami Dolphins rolled the Houston Texans to stay in first place in the AFC East. The Buffalo Bills found a way to edge out the Detroit Lions in a surprisingly close contest. The Cincinnati Bengals went into Tennessee and beat the Titans (who are still 7-4) to take a one-game lead over the Patriots. The New York Jets rebounded from a loss to the Patriots with a win over the Chicago Bears, which gave them both a one-game lead over the Pats and a leg up in the “common games” tiebreaker. The Los Angeles Chargers converted a ballsy last-minute two-point attempt to beat the Cardinals by one, and tie the Patriots at 6-5.
As a result of that havoc wreaked on the Patriots’ playoff chances, they’re now solidly outside the playoff picture and looking in, with all three Wild Card teams at 7-4 or better. Here’s a look at the AFC playoff picture heading into Week 13, including the Patriots and other bubble teams:
(Screenshot via NFL Game Stats and Info)
Of course, if the Patriots somehow win all six of their remaining games, a 12-5 record would land them in the playoffs. But they will almost certainly fall short of that lofty goal, with two games against the Bills coming up, plus home dates with the Bengals and Dolphins. So the most likely scenario is that the Pats need help, in the form of winning while their competition loses.
They can take care of both in one game if they can find a way to a W over the aforementioned Bills, Bengals, or Dolphins. And they probably have to, because the Patriots are looking at 4-2 as the benchmark for their final six games of the regular season. Even if you give them wins over the Cardinals and Raiders, they still need to win at least one of their four remaining matchups against a team ahead of them in the AFC standings.
A strong finish still shouldn’t be ruled out for New England, especially with the leap forward that Mac Jones and the offense appear to have taken after a very good showing in Minnesota. But this is the reality of the Patriots’ situation. They need to play their best football, effective immediately, and against playoff contenders and good quarterbacks.
The results of Thanksgiving week just made the AFC playoff picture that much tougher for the Patriots to crack. We’ll see what this year’s version of the team is really made of in December.
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Matt Dolloff is a writer and podcaster for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Yell at him on Twitter @mattdolloff and follow him on Instagram @realmattdolloff. Check out all of Matt’s content here.