I don't like to cause panic, but here's a declaration you should digest: "The Patriots game against the Minnesota Vikings is a must-win if the Patriots want to reach the playoffs."
Swish that around and come back. FiveThirtyEight went through the past 23 seasons of football to determine the odds of teams making the playoffs based around how the team starts their season.
Teams that start their year off 0-1 have made the playoffs 25% of the time, compared to the 54% playoff rate of teams starting 1-0.
To create concern, only 12% of teams that start 0-2 make the playoffs, versus 41% of teams that start 1-1. This means that the team's odds flex 29% with the outcome of Sunday's game.
Of course, it's easy to say that the Patriots aren't an average team and should be producing like the 12-4 team they were a season prior. FiveThirtyEight ran the numbers for teams that were 12-4 the prior season and found that teams who started the subsequent season 0-1 had a 37% chance of making the playoffs- a 12% improvement over the average team.
A 12-4 team that starts the next season 0-2 only has a 20% chance of making the playoffs, versus a 57% chance if they start 1-1. This means this upcoming game has a swing of 37%, making it one of the most crucial swing points of the year.
Going down this disatrous rabbit hole, an 0-2 team is facing a 50% flex for their third game of the season. Teams that start 0-3 have a 0% chance, while those starting 1-2 have a 50%.
Keep in mind that this is not saying that because a team starts 0-2, they won't be making the playoffs. It's saying that historically, teams that have started 0-2 have had a terrible time trying to make the playoffs. Let's hope the Patriots can avoid that scenario.