The New England Patriots had a chance to clinch the AFC East on Monday Night Football in Week 14, but a 27-20 loss to the Miami Dolphins pushed back a guaranteed spot in the playoffs for another week.
It’ll happen. The defending Super Bowl champions have double-digit wins for the 15th consecutive season and will inevitably lock up a division title for the ninth year in a row.
But for now, it’s still possible that the Patriots fall from grace and get left out of the playoffs altogether. It would take a lengthy scenario for things to go wrong for New England, though.
First and foremost, the Patriots would have to finish the season on a four-game losing streak. The last time New England dropped four in a row was 2002 — one year after Tom Brady took over the starting job. In the 15 years since, the team has never even lost three straight.
But if the impossible happened and the Patriots fell flat in the rest of December, here’s how they could be dropped from the playoffs:
- Patriots lose out (vs. Steelers, Bills, Jets)
- Bills win out (vs. Dolphins, Patriots, Dolphins)
- Ravens win out (vs. Browns, Colts, Bengals)
- Titans win at least one of next two (vs. 49ers, Rams)
- Jaguars win at least one of next two (vs. Texans, 49ers)
- Titans beat the Jaguars in Week 17
The Patriots losing out and the Bills winning their last three would leave both teams 10-6. But Buffalo would have a 4-2 record in the AFC East and the Patriots would be at 3-3, giving the Bills the title.
But to drop New England out of the playoffs completely, the Ravens need to step up and grab one of the two AFC Wild Card berths. Baltimore would own the conference record tiebreaker with an 8-4 record in the AFC, topping New England’s 7-5 record.
The other wild card spot would need to go to the loser of the AFC South. That can be either the Jaguars or the Titans. But, if Tennessee loses to Jacksonville in Week 17, it would only be able to tie New England and would lose the common opponents tiebreaker. So the Titans need to beat the Jaguars in the season finale and get to 10-6, even if the Jaguars manage to clinch the AFC South in the next two weeks.
Compared to the Broncos’ ridiculous 27-game playoff scenario that died last week, this one is relatively simple. It relies on just five results to swap the AFC East in the Bills’ favor, and another six to deprive the Patriots of a Wild Card berth.
But New England doesn’t go on losing streaks, so this doesn’t have much of a chance of coming true. It doesn’t hurt to dream big, though, Patriots haters.