Sports Q

Sports Q: Will the Patriots make the playoffs?

Debate the answer with Chad Finn and other Boston sports fans at The Sports Q.

New England Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, front, greets players as they warm up. AP

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Time to go on the record now. Will the Patriots make the playoffs? – Greg F.

It’s a question of whether you think they will run the table. Not can. Will.

I think they can. I’m not writing off any reasonable possibility with this team right now.  They’re back to .500 at 6-6 after winning four of five, feature emerging young players on a suddenly buzzing defense, the running game is relentless, and the special teams units are making huge plays every week.

There are real flaws, sure – as fun as it to watch Cam Newton in the running game, he’s had back to back games of fewer than 100 passing yards – but Bill Belichick clearly loves this team’s ability to take coaching and the direction in which it is trending. If Belichick likes them, we should too.

Can they run the table against the Rams, Dolphins, Bills and Jets, with the final two of those games at home? Sure.

Will they win out, which is probably going to be necessary for them to reach the playoffs unless the Bills (8-3 entering Monday’s matchup with the Niners) or Dolphins (8-4) outright collapse?

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It’s not out of the question, but I just don’t think they will.

Beating the Rams on short rest will be tough Thursday night, though I expect them to bewilder Jared Goff. Beating the Bills in Week 16 will be difficult. If they take apart the Rams Thursday, I might fully believe. But I’m not there yet.

It’s just such a daunting road, and they have to rely on other teams in front of them aiding their cause. The Patriots currently have the 10th-best record in the AFC. A Bills win Monday puts them three games ahead of the Patriots in the division.

The Dolphins are two games ahead and currently hold one of the three wild card spots, while the Browns (9-3) and Colts (8-4) have the other two. The Patriots also trail the Raiders (7-5) and the Ravens (6-5).

The chances, of course, would be aided by the NFL deciding to add an eighth playoff team. But the way the playoff picture is situated now, the Patriots probably need to go 10-6, beating the Bills and Dolphins along the way while hoping other opponents deal them another loss or two.

What does everyone else think? Will the Patriots make the playoffs? I’ll hear you in the comments. I’ll say no. But I suspect there’s going to be a lot of entertaining suspense in the chase.

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