AFC Playoff Picture: Patriots climb even higher after win over Jets
The Patriots snuck into the thick of the AFC Playoff picture when they went over .500 heading into their bye. They’re even closer to a playoff berth after beating the New York Jets on Sunday, and also getting some help around the conference.
At 6-4, the Patriots are the No. 6 seed in the AFC Playoffs entering Week 12. They now own the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Jets after sweeping the season series, a huge development for them in both the AFC East and the conference.
The Pats are also ahead of the 6-4 Bengals via the conference record tiebreaker. New England is 5-2 against the AFC, while Cincinnati is 3-3. A Christmas Eve showdown between the two looms extremely large, at the moment.
(Screenshot via NFL Game Stats & Info)
The next hurdle for the Patriots to clear, in terms of playoff seeding, is the Buffalo Bills, who overcame a week of (somewhat self-inflicted) chaos to beat the Cleveland Browns in neutral-site Detroit. The Bills are now 7-3, with a game against the Patriots coming in two weeks, and also have to play on Thanksgiving when they stay in Detroit to play the Lions.
If New England and Buffalo both win on Thanksgiving, then a Patriots win over the Bills in Week 13 would put them both at 8-4. The Pats would own the head-to-head tiebreaker at that point, and the upper hand in the division tiebreaker (The Patriots are 2-1 against the AFC East to date; the Bills are 0-2).
Common opponents is a tenuous one between the Patriots and Bills, because the latter beat the Packers and Ravens, who both beat the Pats. But a sweep of the Jets, and a win over the Vikings, would be a huge boost in this department for New England.
Ultimately, the AFC East is so competitive this season that it’s likely to be determined by how the teams fare against each other, anyway. So, if the Patriots can stay in the AFC playoff picture until Week 17, then back-to-back games against the Dolphins and Bills will be the final exams.
Despite the relative struggles of their offense, the Pats have won two straight games on the strength of their defense and special teams units, and went 4-1 in the “easy” part of their schedule. Now comes the hard part. But the playoff positioning is in place, for now.
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