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NFL playoff picture: Patriots don’t get any outside help in Week 13

Related: Patriots vs Chargers recap: New England dominates in all three phases en route to 45-0 win

NFL: New England Patriots at Los Angeles Chargers Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The New England Patriots played their most complete contest of the season in Week 13, dismantling the Los Angeles Chargers on the road with a final score of 45-0. It was a thorough domination in all three phases of the game, and a statement from the team that it was still very much alive in the race fo one of the AFC’s seven postseason seeds. However, that race as a whole did unfold rather unfavorably from New England’s perspective.

While the Patriots did their job, the other wild card contenders also all won — sometimes in rather frustrating fashion from New England’s point of view.

The Miami Dolphins, for example, played a rather sloppy game but still escaped the Cincinnati Bengals 19-7. The Indianapolis Colts, meanwhile, won 26-20 because the Houston Texans lost a fumble at the goal line with only a minute left in the game. And then, there were the Las Vegas Raiders: they were down by four points against the New York Jets with 13 seconds left, but a curious defensive call allowed them to complete a 46-yard touchdown to take the victory.

As a result of all those games, the AFC’s playoff picture therefore looks as follows after 13 weeks:

  1. Pittsburgh Steelers (11-1)
  2. Kansas City Chiefs (11-1)
  3. Buffalo Bills (9-3)
  4. Tennessee Titans (8-4)
  5. Cleveland Browns (9-3)
  6. Miami Dolphins (8-4)
  7. Indianapolis Colts (8-4)

In the hunt: Las Vegas Raiders (7-5), Baltimore Ravens (7-5), New England Patriots (6-6)

As can be seen, the Patriots remain the 10th seed in the AFC heading into their Week 14 game against the Los Angeles Rams — another must-win if New England wants to keep its slim playoff hopes alive. That said, the team’s odds at eventually making the tournament did improve slightly last weekend despite no outside help across the conference: the Patriots’ chances are now at 13 percent, per FiveThirtyEight. They were at 12 percent last week.

Needless to say that the team needs to continue winning, while the rest of the conference will have to help as well. Luckily, some interesting games are coming up this week:

AFC schedule Weeks 14-17

Team Steelers Chiefs Bills Titans Browns Dolphins Colts Ravens Raiders Patriots
Team Steelers Chiefs Bills Titans Browns Dolphins Colts Ravens Raiders Patriots
Week 14 at Bills at Dolphins vs Steelers at Jaguars vs Ravens vs Chiefs at Raiders at Browns vs Colts at Rams
Week 15 at Bengals at Saints at Broncos vs Lions at Giants vs Patriots vs Texans vs Jaguars vs Chargers at Dolphins
Week 16 vs Colts vs Falcons at Patriots at Packers at Jets at Raiders at Steelers vs Giants vs Dolphins vs Bills
Week 17 at Browns vs Chargers vs Dolphins at Texans vs Steelers at Bills vs Jaguars at Bengals at Broncos vs Jets

New England will still probably have to win out to make the tournament — the odds in a vacuum would spike to 91 percent in this scenario — but this week’s slate of games across the AFC will likely give the team some much-needed help one way or the other. Two of the Browns, Ravens, Colts and Raiders will end up without a win, after all. That said, it still all comes down to the Patriots and their ability to beat the Rams this week and the rest of their division to close out the season.


The NFC’s playoff picture, meanwhile, looks like this:

  1. New Orleans Saints (10-2)
  2. Green Bay Packers (9-3)
  3. Los Angeles Rams (8-4)
  4. New York Giants (5-7)
  5. Seattle Seahawks (8-4)
  6. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (7-5)
  7. Minnesota Vikings (6-6)

In the hunt: Arizona Cardinals (6-6), Chicago Bears (5-7), Detroit Lions (5-7), San Francisco 49ers (5-7), Washington Football Team (5-7)

The NFC remains chaotic, even though the Saints have positioned themselves well to earn the number one seed and first-round bye associated with it. Elsewhere, however, anything seems possible — from Rams losing the NFC West, to the Lions or Bears ending up in the tournament, to the Football Team coming back to win the eastern division.