Today’s game between the New England Patriots and the Kansas City Chiefs has been called the most important game of the season by many people. But just how important is this game? With only four contests left, let’s take a look at the potential playoff implications.
First, there are four teams that I’m going to focus on here. They are the four division leaders in the AFC. The Ravens, Chiefs, Patriots, and Texans. Right now, Baltimore is first, with the Patriots, Texans, and Chiefs two through four, in that order. The outcome of the game this week will have a direct impact on these teams.
Before we analyze this week’s game, let’s take a look at the remaining schedule for the four teams in question.
The Ravens have a tough game this weekend in Buffalo, but after that they play the Jets, Browns, and Steelers. You have to assume those are three fairly easy wins, so a win this week in Buffalo would essentially clinch the the number one seed for them. Remember that the Ravens beat the Patriots and now have the head-to-head tiebreaker over them for the top seed in the AFC.
The Texans have the Broncos this week, and then play the Titans twice and the Bucs. Although the Titans have been in some close games, that should be four wins for the Texans, but they’re usually good for at least one stinker at the end of the season, so who knows. The Texans beat the Chiefs already, so they have the tiebreaker if they were to finish with the same record.
The Chiefs play in New England this weekend, obviously, and then have the Broncos, Bears, and Chargers. The Bears are fine, and the Chargers are usually good for a late season upset, but, after today, they should win those last three games.
The Patriots host the Chiefs this week, and then have the Bengals, Bills, and Dolphins. Out of the four teams, the Patriots have the most difficult schedule, with two tough teams. Luckily, however, both the Chiefs and Bills have to go to New England.
So what does all this mean? Let’s take a look at what the outcome of today’s game could have on the potential seeding.
If the Patriots win
In case New England were to win this weekend, the team would essentially clinch a first-round bye, and the number two seed, assuming the Ravens were to beat the Bills. Today is also their last best chance at the top seed, if they win and the Ravens lose. But a win today would do something even more important: it would give the Chiefs five losses, and put them a full two games behind the Texans for the third seed.
That would mean, if the seedings finished this way, the Chiefs would go to Baltimore in the divisional round, and the Texans would come to New England. If you’re someone like me, who believes the most important thing is the Patriots playing either the Ravens or the Chiefs in the playoffs, this is the scenario where that is most likely. A win by New England and Baltimore would also essentially clinch the division for the Patriots, since they would still have two losses, and the Bills would have four, making their matchup in a few weeks almost irrelevant.
If the Patriots lose
If the Patriots lose today, nothing changes. They stay as the second seed, since both the Texans and Chiefs, who would both have the tiebreaker over them, still have (at least, in Houston’s case) four losses, and the Patriots would only have three. What it would mean is that the Patriots would have to win out, and the game against Buffalo in two weeks would be for the division.
Even if the Bills were to lose against the Ravens, they would have split the season series. It’s possible because the Patriots beat the Browns and the Bills lose to them, that they would clinch anyway, but I’m not sure. Either way, it becomes a much larger game, and then, if the Bills somehow win today, they would obviously be able to clinch the division over the Patriots in that game.
So those are the potential playoff implications today. Would a loss today kill the Patriots? No, but a win would go a long way to ensuring that the Patriots play the winner of a Chiefs versus Ravens matchup in the postseason, and that may be the best chance the Patriots have of getting back to the Super Bowl.
Pat is a host of The Patriot Nation Podcast
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