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2020 NFL playoffs: Patriots favored against Titans, but only given outside chance to win the AFC

Related: 2020 NFL playoff schedule: Patriots slated to host Titans on wildcard weekend

Miami Dolphins v New England Patriots Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images

The New England Patriots appeared to be well on their way to earning a first-round playoff bye before the Miami Dolphins rode into Gillette Stadium to steal an improbable win. As a result, the Patriots will now have to play on wild card weekend for the first time since January 2010, when they lost in blowout fashion to the Baltimore Ravens. A repeat result this time around is certainly possible, even though the oddsmakers see it as unlikely.

After all, the Patriots are entering next Saturday’s game against the sixth-seeded Tennessee Titans as slight favorites as a look at the latest odds released by shows: New England is currently favored to advance to the divisional round for the 10th year in a row by 5.5 points. Considering that home field advantage is generally seen as a three-point factor, the bookmakers apparently see the two teams as relatively even at the moment.

This is certainly a fair assessment considering the Patriots’ inconsistent play this season — especially against playoff-caliber opponents — as well as Tennessee’s recent emergence since making a change at quarterback from Marcus Mariota to Ryan Tannehill. The game between the two clubs projects to be a close one and the opening line giving a slight edge to the 12-4 team with plenty of postseason experience reflects this properly.

But while New England is favored to advance past Tennessee, the reigning world champions are only given an outside chance to move much deeper into the playoff tournament. As things currently stand, after all, they head into the postseason with 6-to-1 odds to win the AFC — third in the conference behind the top-seeded Baltimore Ravens (4-to-5) and the second-seeded Kansas City Chiefs (2-to-1).

The oddsmakers are not the only ones to doubt the Patriots’ long-term ability to make noise in the playoffs as FiveThirtyEight’s playoff predictions also project a rather early exit for a team that has made the AFC title game each of the past eight years:

NFL playoff predictions

Team Make divisional round Make conference finals Make Super Bowl Win Super Bowl
Team Make divisional round Make conference finals Make Super Bowl Win Super Bowl
Ravens 89% 66% 46%
Chiefs 76% 25% 14%
Patriots 69% 19% 5% 3%
Texans 65% 8% 2% <1%
Bills 35% 4% <1% <1%
Titans 31% 4% 1% <1%

As can be seen, the Ravens and Chiefs are the overwhelming favorites to reach the AFC Championship Game. This is rather unsurprising considering that they are the top two seeds in the conference and therefore are projected to have the easiest road ahead — one that includes a possible rematch with New England on Kansas City’s side: as the number two seed, a meeting with the Patriots is a possibility on divisional weekend.

The two clubs, of course, are no strangers to each other. The Patriots have lost to the Chiefs earlier this season but did knock the team out of the postseason just last year. Before talking about a potential Tom Brady vs. Patrick Mahomes showdown, however, New England will need to take care of its business on Saturday night — something that is far from etched in stone.