The NFL is heading into week 14 of what has been a wild season.
The last remaining unbeaten – the Pittsburgh Steelers – fell to the Washington Football Team on Monday night to drop to 11-1.
The Steelers are now tied with the Kansas City Chiefs for the best record in the NFL.
The New Orleans Saints trail them at 10-2, with the Green Bay Packers, Buffalo Bills, and Cleveland Browns (!!!) all tied behind the Saints at 9-3.
One team currently on the outside looking in is the New England Patriots.
They currently sit at 6-6 on the year – good for 10th in the AFC standings.
Patriots Playoff Picture Heading Into Week 14: Pats Need Wins And A Lot Of Help https://t.co/ZpQiDCUVdz
— WBZ Boston Sports (@wbzsports) December 9, 2020
The expanded postseason rules this year allow for the top 7 teams in each conference to make the playoffs, with only the 1 seed getting a first-round bye.
As it currently stands, the Patriots’ chances are looking bleak.
Their streak of 11 consecutive playoff appearances is in serious jeopardy of ending.
The Patriots dynasty could soon be coming to an end.
Patriots Path to the Playoffs
According to the New York Times, the Patriots have a 14% chance of making the playoffs.
Patriots' playoff chances, per @FiveThirtyEight…
Right now: 13%
w/ win over Chargers: 22%
w/ win LAC, LAR, MIA: 64%
Winning out: 98%
— Henry McKenna (@McKennAnalysis) December 3, 2020
While that is low, they have won 4 of their last 5; the most recent victory being a 45-0 waxing of the Los Angeles Chargers.
Cam Newton has started to play better football of late and the defense has been rounding into form (17.6 PPG in past 5 games vs 23.9 PPG in first 7 games).
They also own the tie-breaker over the Baltimore Ravens and Las Vegas Raiders – the two teams immediately ahead of them in the standings – as they beat both of them in the regular season.
If New England can win out, they will boost their odds of making the playoffs to 96%.
However, their remaining schedule is incredibly difficult.
- @ Los Angeles Rams
- @ Miami Dolphins
- Buffalo Bills
- New York Jets
It is almost a necessity the Patriots win out to make the playoffs.
Of the four teams ahead of them in the standings, three have schedules that rank in the bottom half remaining S.O.S., while one has the hardest remaining schedule per S.O.S…
- 1. – Miami Dolphins (6)
- 19. – Las Vegas Raiders (8)
- 20. – Indianapolis Colts (7)
- 31. – Baltimore Ravens (9)
Essentially, the Patriots have little margin for error.
If New England goes 3-1 the close out the season, they will need to have a laundry list of results to happen to get in.
— BostonSportsJournal (@BostonSportsBSJ) December 9, 2020
They would need the Colts and Dolphins to go 1-3 and the Raiders to finish no better than 2-2.
The Pats would also need to ensure their one loss would be to the Rams to ensure an 8-4 record in conference games.
It isn’t an impossible scenario.
The Dolphins are a young team with a tough schedule and the Raiders seem to be collapsing.
But the Colts are playing solid football and will be playing mostly below-average teams the rest of the way.
Belichick’s Best Coaching Job?
Bill Belichick is getting praise from numerous sources around the NFL.
Some even think this may be his best coaching job in his career.
Shoutout to Bill Belichick. The job he’s done with this team has been outstanding.
I have no idea how this season will end or if they’ll make the playoffs, but at 6-6 this team is overachieving and a big part of that is Belichick. pic.twitter.com/6croZc3lmm
— Pats Buzz (@PatsBuzz) December 7, 2020
They lost their franchise legend in the offseason when Brady signed with Tampa Bay, and many wondered if Belichick could still be successful.
Especially with a QB who had had a rocky past few seasons.
After a slow start, Bill has them playing well.
The only knock is the quality of competition the 4-1 record has come against the past 5 games.
None of those 5 teams are currently in the playoffs, and only 2 are really in the hunt (Ravens and Cardinals).
But you can only play who is on your schedule and the Patriots have looked good.
They fought through an injury bug and some COVID issues to start the season and appear to be potentially rounding into form.
A win in Los Angeles against the Rams this Thursday would be a huge statement win.
Confidence amongst the team would also surely grow and the momentum could carry them through the rest of the season.
If Bill can win-out and get the Patriots into the postseason for the 12th consecutive seasons, it would only further entrench him as the greatest coach of all time.