How the Patriots fit into the AFC playoff picture entering Week 15

They're very much in the mix but have a tough remaining schedule.

Matthew Judon celebrates a Patriots win. David Richard/AP Photo

Despite their head-scratching inconsistency on offense, the Patriots are still very much in contention for a playoff spot in the AFC.

Entering Saturday’s games, New England (7-6) sits in seventh place. The 10-3 Bills and 10-3 Chiefs are essentially locks. The 9-4 Ravens and 9-4 Bengals appear likely to make it as well, barring a surprising twist.

After that, the 8-5 Dolphins, Patriots, 7-6 Chargers, and 7-6 Jets, are all in the mix for the other two wild-card spots (with whoever doesn’t win the AFC North between the Ravens and Bengals likely taking a wild-card spot). Remember, there are 17 games and seven spots, so the equation looks a bit different than it has in the past. Here are the updated standings.


If teams from the same division end up with the same record: head-to-head, win percentage within the division, win percentage in common games, then win percentage in conference games decide the hierarchy, in that order. After that, it gets pretty wacky. Here’s the NFL’s full explanation.

If the teams are from different divisions, it goes: head-to-head, win percentage within the conference, win percentage in common games.

The Patriots lost to the Dolphins in Week 1 and are set to play them again in Week 17. Every game is important moving forward, but that has a chance to be the most pivotal of all.

New England beat New York twice (remember Marcus Jones’s epic punt return?) and doesn’t play Los Angeles this season.

The Patriots face the Las Vegas Raiders on Sunday at 4:05 p.m., the Bengals next Saturday at 1 p.m., the Dolphins on Sunday, Jan. 1, at 1 p.m., and the Bills on Sunday, Jan. 8 (time TBD) to close out the regular season.

If the Patriots win out, they’re in the playoffs. If they win three of four and finish 10-7, it would take something crazy for them not to make it. If they split, only time will tell. If they lose three or four and finish below .500, they’re almost certainly out.


In Week 15, Patriots fans should root for the Bills to beat the Dolphins, the Lions to beat the Jets, the Titans to beat the Chargers, and the Buccaneers to beat the Bengals.

In general, rooting against the Dolphins and Jets is in your best interest, but that shouldn’t be too difficult.

FiveThirtyEight currently gives the Patriots a 40 percent chance to make the playoffs, behind the Titans (85 percent), Dolphins (70 percent), and Chargers (55 percent), and ahead of the Jets (33 percent).

If they beat the Raiders on Sunday, that number skyrockets to 58 percent. If they then beat the Bengals, it soars to 76 percent. Crunching the numbers is fun and all, but essentially, they still control their own destiny.


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