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NFL playoff picture: Week 11 sees Patriots fail to make up ground in AFC wild card race

Related: Patriots vs Texans recap: Lackluster New England comes up short again, loses 27-20

New England Patriots Vs. Houston Texans at NRG Stadium Photo by Matthew J. Lee/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

The New England Patriots were in a good position heading into Week 11. Having just won back-to-back games against the New York Jets and the Baltimore Ravens, they were one victory away from getting to .500 again and right back into the wild card playoff hunt. Instead, however, they were dealt another defeat — this time at the hands of the Houston Texans, who won with a final score of 27-20 to drop the Patriots to 4-6.

Theoretically, the team is still alive in the race for one of the spots in the AFC’s half of the tournament. The situation gets worse every week, however, especially with New England failing to make up any ground on the other competitors in the conference. At this point in time and after suffering their sixth loss of the season, the Patriots therefore have only a theoretical chance to make the playoffs for the 12th year in a row.

According to FiveThirtyEight, for example, their chances of ending up among the top-seven in the AFC are only 8 percent at the moment — 10th best in the conference, which is actually one spot better than the team’s actual position in the standings:

  1. Pittsburgh Steelers (10-0)
  2. Kansas City Chiefs (9-1)
  3. Buffalo Bills (7-3)
  4. Indianapolis Colts (7-3)
  5. Tennessee Titans (7-3)
  6. Cleveland Browns (7-3)
  7. Las Vegas Raiders (6-4)

In the hunt: Baltimore Ravens (6-4), Miami Dolphins (6-4), Denver Broncos (4-6), New England Patriots (4-6)

As can be seen, the Patriots lost one spot in the standings in Week 11 with the Denver Broncos overtaking them thanks to a 20-13 win over the Miami Dolphins. That result was actually one that would have helped New England had the team won in Houston — just like the Ravens’ loss in Tennessee and the Raiders’ defeat against the Chiefs. Alas, Bill Belichick’s club was unable to take advantage of some favorable results on Sunday.

Accordingly, it is slowly but steadily entering do-or-die territory. While a loss in Week 12 against the Arizona Cardinals would not yet eliminate New England from contention, it would make near-impossible for the Patriots to come back to clinch one of the postseason spots. On the other hand, however, a win and some lucky breaks this weekend could go a long way towards the team fighting its way back into serious contention.

The NFC’s playoff picture, meanwhile, looks as follows:

  1. New Orleans Saints (8-2)
  2. Green Bay Packers (7-3)
  3. Los Angeles Rams (7-3)
  4. Philadelphia Eagles (3-6-1)
  5. Seattle Seahawks (7-3)
  6. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (7-4)
  7. Arizona Cardinals (6-4)

In the hunt: Chicago Bears (5-5), Minnesota Vikings (4-6), Detroit Lions (4-6), San Francisco 49ers (4-6)

The NFC remains a highly-contested conference across the board: no division lead is safe, no wild card spot etched in stone just yet. The most intriguing battle purely for nihilistic reasons is still that in the NFC East, though: the 3-6-1 Eagles are currently ahead, followed by three clubs who are currently 3-7. It is the best of times, it is the blurst worst of times.