A lot would have to happen, but picture this, if you will.
Assuming the Patriots win their next two games, versus the Packers and Bills respectively, they would clinch home-field throughout the playoffs. Even if the Steelers win out the rest of the way, against the Jets, Panthers, and Browns, the Patriots own the head-to-head advantage.
The Jets, meanwhile, face those same Steelers next week, and then finish out the season against the Bears and Bills. The Dolphins face Buffalo and Detroit before arriving in Foxborough for their season finale against the Patriots.
Conceivably, Miami and New York could enter the final weekend of the season with identical 9-6 records. Conceivably, one of the two could be playing for the final AFC playoff spot.
If you’re Bill Belichick, do you throw the game?
Obviously, such a scenario can’t yet be rationalized justly with the Colts, Ravens, and Chargers, among a host of others, still vying for postseason spots. But think of the ramifications. Not only would you have beaten the Jets soundly in your final regular season matchup against them, you’d be able to thumb your nose at them in keeping them out of the playoffs. Hoyer time?
If Roger Goodell has anything to say about it, then he should have pointed the finger in Indianapolis for years. Any given Sunday and yada, yada, yada. It’s just too delicious of a possibility not to think about.
Of course, the Jets could have avoided this possibility had they not vomited all over themselves against the Dolphins yesterday, keeping Miami’s playoff hopes alive. The Patriots, meanwhile, are officially in the dance, courtesy of another eye-opening win in snow globe Chicago. In order to win the AFC East, the Jets would have to win out, while watching the Patriots go 0-3 down the stretch. Not happening.
The scenario also assumes the Jaguars drop one of their final three contests against the Colts, Redskins, or Texans. If indeed they win all three, and the Patriots go 0-3, they would have a 5-1 division record, and the Patriots would need to keep pace with a win over Miami. Not happening.
In order to grab the No. 1 seed, the Steelers would have to 2-1 the rest of the way, while New England manages to go
only 1-2 (Edit. If Steelers go 2-1, Pats would have to go 0-3. If Steelers go 3-0, Pats would have to go 1-2). Could happen, but not likely. All I will say is this: As long as the Patriots win their next two games, there’s no way that losing intentionally against Miami can hurt them. There is, of course, the little matter of karma. Just ask the Bengals. Still, the Rex Ryan presser would be an all-time classic, would it not?
So, if you’re Belichick, with a hatred for the Jets and an opportunity to kick them in the gut, do you do it?