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NFL playoff picture: How the Patriots can clinch a postseason berth this weekend

Related: NFL playoff picture: Top-seeded Patriots share AFC’s best record with 2 other teams

NFL: New England Patriots at Buffalo Bills Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

It took a little longer than it usually does, but the New England Patriots are now on the verge of booking their ticket to the playoffs.

It’s crazy to think that after a 2-4 start, here we are talking playoffs. Not only that, but New England still has the inside track on the top seed in the conference and that coveted first round bye. And while the Patriots can neither clinch the One Seed nor the AFC East this weekend no matter what happens around the league, they can guarantee themselves at least a Wild Card berth. Step one, of course, is beating the Indianapolis Colts on Saturday night. If they can do that, all that needs to happen elsewhere in the AFC is just one of the following incredibly likely scenarios takes place:

  1. NE win + MIA loss + DEN loss + LV loss + BAL loss + KC loss + PIT loss + JAX loss + MIN loss + DET loss + ATL win
  2. NE win + MIA loss/tie + DEN loss + LV tie + BAL loss
  3. NE win + MIA loss/tie + DEN loss + BAL loss + CLE loss + LAC loss
  4. NE win + MIA loss/tie + DEN tie + LV loss + LAC loss + BAL loss
  5. NE win + MIA loss/tie + DEN tie + LV tie + LAC loss + PIT loss/tie
  6. NE win + MIA loss/tie + DEN loss/tie + CLE loss + LAC loss + PIT loss/tie
  7. NE win + MIA loss/tie + DEN tie + CLE loss + KC loss + BAL loss + PIT loss/tie
  8. NE win + MIA loss/tie + DEN tie + CLE loss/tie + LAC loss + BAL loss/tie
  9. NE win + MIA loss/tie + CIN loss + CLE loss + BAL loss + PITT loss/tie
  10. NE win + MIA loss/tie + CIN loss + CLE loss + BAL loss + KC loss
  11. NE win + MIA loss/tie + CIN loss + CLE loss + BAL loss + LAC loss
  12. NE win + MIA tie + CIN loss + CLE loss + BAL loss + KC tie + MIN loss + JAX loss + DET loss + PHI win + DAL win
  13. NE win + MIA tie + DEN tie + CLE loss + KC loss + BAL loss + PHI win + DAL win + two or more wins from any combination of HOU, CHI, ARI
  14. NE win + MIA loss + DEN tie + CLE loss + KC loss + BAL loss + 1.5 or more wins from DAL and PHI and 2.5 or more wins from HOU, ARI, CHI
  15. NE win + MIA loss/tie + DEN tie + CLE loss + KC loss + BAL loss + one or more wins from DAL and PHI and 2.5 or more wins from HOU, ARI, CHI

Everyone got all that?

Of all these scenarios, the most likely, in my opinion, is Number 3; Denver plays the Bengals, the Ravens (possibly without Lamar Jackson) play the Packers, the Chargers play the Chiefs, and the COVID-decimated Browns play the Raiders. Those are all games more than able to fall New England’s way.

The Dolphins, on the other hand, host the Jets. Every single scenario hinges on the Patriots beating the Colts and the Jets beating the Fins. You never know with Divisional matchups, but that might be a tough ask.

A better solution would be to just forget about all of this nonsense and win out. That’s a lot that needs to fall our way, so I’d just focus on beating Indy with the chance to secure the AFCE crown at home the following week. I don’t see KC losing again, and with so many teams vying for that top spot New England can’t afford to slip up at all. The One Seed seems just as close as the Six Seed at this point, so hopefully the team is laser focused coming out of their bye.