The New England Patriots were thisclose to being in position to clinch the AFC East next week against the Buffalo Bills. Nearly every domino that needed to fall over the past three weeks tipped in the correct direction, except for one.
The dang Kansas City Chiefs couldn’t beat the Buffalo Bills.
The Bills went on the road and beat the Chiefs 16-10, sending both teams to matching 6-5 records. This outcome benefits the Patriots from the big-picture AFC perspective, but delays New England’s seemingly inevitable AFC East crown another week.
The Patriots needed the Bills to lose to Kansas City and fall to 5-6, setting up a week 13 showdown between New England and Buffalo. If the Patriots beat the Bills, they would move to 10-2 and the Bills would be 5-7 and it would be impossible for Buffalo to match New England’s record.
Instead, there’s a chance the Patriots could beat Buffalo next week and still not win the division.
If New England beats Buffalo and moves to 10-2, there’s still a moonshot chance that the Patriots lose out and finish the year 10-6. It’s unlikely, but technically possible. Buffalo would be 6-6, meaning they could also finish the year 10-6. This scenario includes the two teams splitting the season series, moving them to the next tiebreaker: divisional record.
The (10-6) Patriots would be 3-3 against AFC East opponents because they would have to lose their final four games, which include games against the Dolphins, Bills, and New York Jets. The (10-6) Bills would be 4-2 against AFC East opponents with a season-opener victory against the Jets and their final three games against the Dolphins, Patriots, and Dolphins (again). This would grant Buffalo the tiebreaker and offers the reason why the Patriots can’t clinch the division in week 13.
The Patriots will have to beat the Bills next week and then their next victory or the Bills next loss would clinch the AFC East for New England.
Here’s the full playoff picture.
- (9-2) Pittsburgh Steelers - owns strength of victory tiebreaker with Patriots
- (9-2) New England Patriots
- (7-4) Tennessee Titans - owns head-to-head tiebreaker with the Jaguars
- (6-5) Kansas City Chiefs
- (7-4) Jacksonville Jaguars
- (6-5) Buffalo Bills
- (10-1) Philadelphia Eagles
- (9-2) Minnesota Vikings
- (8-3) Los Angeles Rams - owns head-to-head tiebreaker with the Saints
- (8-3) New Orleans Saints - owns head-to-head tiebreaker with the Panthers
- (8-3) Carolina Panthers
- (7-4) Atlanta Falcons