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NFL playoff picture: Patriots’ postseason hopes take a massive hit in Week 15

Related: Patriots vs. Raiders: New England loses 30-24 on last play of the game

New England Patriots v Las Vegas Raiders Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

The New England Patriots entered Week 14 as the seventh seed in the AFC, and would have stayed in that position with a victory over the Las Vegas Raiders. But while they came close, a collapse of epic proportions in the final minute left the team on the losing side of things.

Their 30-24 defeat drops the Patriots to 7-7 on the year, and out of the playoff picture once again. Given what lies ahead for them and their closest competitors for the three available wild card spots, they have now fully entered must-win territory: running the table will likely be the only way to get into the tournament.

Before getting into any of that, however, let’s take a look at how things are shaping up in the Patriots’ conference with all AFC games of Week 15 in the books:

  1. Buffalo Bills (11-3)
  2. Kansas City Chiefs (11-3)
  3. Cincinnati Bengals (10-4)
  4. Tennessee Titans (7-7)
  5. Baltimore Ravens (9-5)
  6. Los Angeles Chargers (8-6)
  7. Miami Dolphins (8-6)

On the bubble: 8. New England Patriots (7-7), 9. New York Jets (7-7), 10. Jacksonville Jaguars (6-8), 11. Las Vegas Raiders (6-8), 12. Cleveland Browns (6-8), 13. Pittsburgh Steelers (6-8)

Not technically eliminated but let’s be real here: 14. Indianapolis Colts (4-9-1)

Eliminated: 15. Denver Broncos (4-10), 16. Houston Texans (1-12-1)

While losses suffered by the Jets, Dolphins and Ravens all played in the Patriots’ hands they failed to capitalize on them. To make matters worse, the Chargers were able to win their game against Tennessee 17-14 to take a one-game advantage over New England.

That, in combination with the Patriots’ own loss in Las Vegas, has now left the team with only an outsider’s chance to make the playoffs when all is said and done: according to FiveThirty Eight, the team’s postseason hopes are a mere 19 percent at the moment — just the 10th highest number in the AFC behind even the Jets and Jaguars.

Of course, as noted above, none of that matters if the Patriots do their job over the final three weeks of the season: if they beat Cincinnati, Miami and Buffalo to close out the year, they are in the playoffs regardless of what their rivals do. Of course, the odds of New England doing that are not all too great either.


The NFC playoff picture looks as follows, with one game between Los Angeles and Green Bay still left to be played on Monday night.

  1. Philadelphia Eagles (13-1)
  2. Minnesota Vikings (11-3)
  3. San Francisco 49ers (10-4)
  4. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-8)
  5. Dallas Cowboys (10-4)
  6. New York Giants (8-5-1)
  7. Washington Commanders (7-6-1)

On the bubble: 8. Seattle Seahawks (7-7), 9. Detroit Lions (7-7)

Not technically eliminated but let’s be real here: 10. Green Bay Packers (5-8), 11. Carolina Panthers (5-9), 12. New Orleans Saints (5-9), 13. Atlanta Falcons (5-9), 14. Los Angeles Rams (4-9)

Eliminated: 15. Arizona Cardinals (4-10), 16. Chicago Bears (3-11)

The AFC South remains a dumpster fire, with Tom Brady’s Buccaneers losing another game to drop to 6-8 on the year. They are still the heavy favorites to eventually win the division, though, given that their rivals — all of whom sitting at 5-9 — have not shown much either this season.