The Globe's Christopher L. Gasper will have an in-depth look at the Patriots' complex playoff scenarios in tomorrow's newspaper, but here is one point worth pondering for now:
The Jets, Dolphins, Ravens, Colts, and Steelers all control their postseason destiny. The Patriots do not.
Even if the Patriots win all three of their remaining three games (at Oakland, vs. Arizona, and at Buffalo), they are no sure thing for a playoff berth since the tiebreaking procedures under the following circumstances are not in their favor:
If the Patriots and Jets both win out to go 11-5, the tiebreaker goes to New York, which would own a better division record (5-1 to the Patriots' 4-2).
If Miami wins out to finish 11-5, they would hold the tiebreaker edge over the Patriots because of a better conference record. (That is actually the third tiebreaker in this scenario. The Patriots and Dolphins would have the same division record at 4-2 and the same record against common opponents at 2-2.)
If Baltimore wins two of three to finish 11-5, they would win the tiebreaker over the Patriots because of a better conference record.
If Indianapolis wins two more games to finish 11-5, they would own the tiebreaker since they defeated the Patriots head to head.
If Pittsburgh wins one of its final three games to finish 11-5, they would have the tiebreaker since they defeated the Patriots head to head.
In other words, for the Patriots to make the playoffs, their only realistic bet is to run the table and get some help along the way.