After an ugly, hard-fought victory against the Arizona Cardinals, the New England Patriots now sit at 5–6 and are still on the outside looking in when it comes to the playoff picture. With three more division matchups left on the schedule, the Patriots’ playoff hopes aren’t completely gone yet. However, it is safe to say that one more loss would really kill any hopes of even making a wild card spot. So, let’s take a look at some key matchups remaining on the Patriots schedule.
Los Angeles Rams
Arguably the toughest matchup remaining on the Patriots schedule, the Rams have an opportunity to stick it to the Patriots after losing Super Bowl 53. The Rams have one of the best defenses in the league: in fact, they are second in the league in yards allowed. Against a fairly stagnant Patriots offense, on paper, the Rams should have their way against the Patriots offense. Therefore, the Pats defense is going to need to step it up if they are going to beat the Rams. If it winds up being a high scoring affair, I do not see how the Patriots win.
It’s unlikely that the Patriots will come back to win the division with how good the Buffalo Bills have been this season, but if the Bills have some sort of late season meltdown, this game could end up being the most important game remaining on the schedule. The last time these teams met, the Patriots looked like they had the game won, or at the very least were going to send it to overtime. Unfortunately, Cam Newton got a little careless with the football and fumbled away a potential win. Whether the Patriots want to win the division or just make the final wild card spot, this game is a must win.
This game is easily the biggest game remaining on the schedule for the Pats. The Miami Dolphins are currently two wins ahead of the Patriots in the standings, and it is possible that this game could determine who makes that final wild card spot. If the Patriots win, they will hold the outright tie-breaker, meaning that if they ended with the same record, the Patriots would have the higher seed. The Pats did beat the Dolphins in their first matchup, but it is clear that the Dolphins have improved dramatically since then so it will not be easy,
The Patriots are in a situation where they are going to need teams to lose in order to make a playoff spot. Therefore, it is out of their hands. Chances are, with five more weeks remaining in the season, they will wind up getting the help they need, but the only way I see the Patriots making the playoffs is if they go undefeated from here on out.
As of right now, the Patriots hold the tiebreaker over the Los Vegas Raiders and the Baltimore Ravens. Unfortunately, those two teams are now out of the playoffs as well, so the Pats need either the Dolphins or the Indianapolis Colts to lose twice in order for the Pats to even tie them in the standings. The Patriots have more control when it comes to the Dolphins because they still have an opportunity to beat them one more time. For now, the Patriots need to take it one game at a time and take care of business against the 3–8 Los Angeles Chargers.