Let’s start by addressing all the optimists reading this: There is still a chance that the New England Patriots end up in the NFL playoffs even after their disappointing 24-3 loss to the Los Angeles Rams on Thursday night. Brace yourselves, however, because a heavy dose of reality is about to come your way.
While it is true that the Patriots are at least mathematically left standing, their odds at eventually making the tournament for a 12th year in a row took a major hit versus Los Angeles. How major, you may ask? Well, it’s not looking good.
According to calculations by FiveThirtyEight, New England currently has only a 4 percent chance to still earn one of the seven playoff spots in the AFC. Entering the game against the Rams, that number sat at 13 percent — not great but obviously a lot more favorable and flexible: it would have jumped to 28 percent with a victory over L.A. but that option went up in smoke when Bill Belichick’s team played one of its worst games of the season.
As a result, the Patriots are now on the verge of elimination with the rest of this week’s games still to be played. While there is no scenario yet that would officially end New England’s postseason bid, the odds would fall to below 1 percent if the Buffalo Bills (vs Pittsburgh Steelers), Miami Dolphins (vs Kansas City Chiefs) and Baltimore Ravens (at Cleveland Browns) all win their respective games this weekend.
So, what are the Patriots’ options now looking forward?
There is still a chance, as noted above, but a lot of things would have to go right — starting with the team winning its remaining games versus its three division rivals. In that case, the odds would improve to 24 percent in a vacuum and regardless of the other games. In order to make up the remaining 76 percent, however, New England would need a lot of helps starting with the three games mentioned above.
Getting all that help is not impossible, but statistically unrealistic. Accordingly, it is probably best to prepare for a January without Patriots playoff football for the first time since Britney Spears’ Womanizer sat atop the Billboard charts.
From the team’s perspective, however, the goal has not changed as safety Devin McCourty pointed out after Thursday’s loss.
“Just keep playing. It is what it is right now,” the team captain said. “We’ll keep fighting. We’ll see how it works out, but there’s no easy answer other than, ‘We have three games left and the goal is still the same: trying to win the remaining three games.’”