At 4-6, the New England Patriots remain on the outside looking in in the AFC’s postseason race. With only six games remaining in the regular season, they are currently just the 11th seed in the conference and two games behind the final wild card spot that currently belongs to the 6-4 Las Vegas Raiders. The odds are certainly not working in the Patriots’ favor, with their loss against the Houston Texans another blow.
While New England had a 20 percent chance of earning one of the seven playoff seeds heading into Sunday’s matchup against the Texans, according to FiveThirtyEight, that number dropped to 8 percent following the team’s 27-20 defeat. There is still a chance the team sneak into the tournament when all is said and done, but it appears to be only theoretical in nature considering the Patriots’ latest performance and record.
However, Matthew Slater sang a different tune during a media conference call on Monday — sharing a simple message along the way: the Patriots’ 2020 season is not finished just yet.
“The season’s not over, and that’s what [Bill Belichick]’s telling us now,” the team captain told reporters. “I’m sure there’s a lot of noise surrounding our team that would suggest otherwise, but the reality is the season is not over. We still have a lot to play for, we still have some great opportunities ahead of us, and we just have to continue to push and to have faith in our process, have faith in each other.
“If that’s good enough then we’ll live with the results, and if it’s not we’ll live with the results. But we have to find a way to put our best foot forward in each and every way that we possibly can. We realize we still have an opportunity to go out and play six more games and we just have to find a way to play those games at as high a level as we possibly can.”
Slater is playing a pivotal role on the Patriots’ squad not just as one of its core special teamers: he is New England’s longest-tenured player following the offseason departures of quarterback Tom Brady and kicker Stephen Gostkowski, and as such among the most impactful voices on the team. The 35-year-old sharing the “season not over” message is therefore one that naturally resonates throughout the locker room.
It’s also one that Bill Belichick, as Slater mentioned, has been pushing — both behind closed doors and out in the public.
“It’s disappointing, but we’ll just have to turn the page here and move on,” the Patriots’ head coach said during his media session following his team’s loss in Houston. “I still have a lot of confidence and belief in the team that if we just do things a little bit better, the results will be different and better. We just couldn’t do it today.”
Still, the proverbial ice beneath New England’s collective feet is getting thinner by the week. This week’s game against the Arizona Cardinals is no make-or-break contest yet, but one that will have a big impact either way: it could further hurt the Patriots’ already slim chances of making the playoffs, or serve as a springboard for a potential late-season push with some pivotal contests coming up for all of the AFC’s wild card contenders.
For the time being, Slater and his teammates are therefore still fighting for their postseason life — and he himself is leading that battle.