The New England Patriots missed their first chance at officially clinching a spot in the playoffs: the team lost 28-22 against the Houston Texans on Sunday and is not yet officially qualified for the postseason just yet. Anything but the Patriots eventually earning a playoff birth would be a major surprise as the team’s currently on its way to earn a first-round bye, and the next chance to lock up a place in the tournament already comes this weekend.
The Patriots go up against the visiting Kansas City Chiefs, who themselves are fighting for playoff positioning as the current number four seed in the AFC, on Sunday and a win would secure the home team its 27th trip to the postseason — and its 11th straight. However, the old win-and-you’re-in is not the only way for New England to qualify. In fact, the following five scenarios all could end up securing the Patriots a spot.
1. New England win; or
2. New England tie + Pittsburgh Steelers loss; or
3. New England tie + Houston Texans loss or tie; or
4. New England tie + Tennessee Titans loss or tie; or
5. Houston Texans loss + Indianapolis Colts loss or tie + Oakland Raiders vs Tennessee Titans tie
To be fair, the last four of the five ways the Patriots can clinch a playoff spot this weekend are highly unlikely. After all, there have been only 10 ties in the NFL since its divisional realignment in 2002 — three of which since overtime was shortened ahead of the 2018 season. But despite the recent uptick in ties, the most realistic scenario for New England to lock up its postseason berth is number one: beating the Chiefs on Sunday.