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NFL playoff picture: Patriots eliminated from postseason contention for third time in last four years

The Patriots did win their Week 14 game, but it was not enough to save their season.

New England Patriots v Pittsburgh Steelers Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

The writing was already on the wall, but it has now become official: the New England Patriots will not qualify for the NFL playoffs this season.

Despite winning their Week 14 game against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Thursday, a 34-14 Cincinnati Bengals victory over the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday — one of several possible elimination scenarios — has officially closed the door for the team. At 3-10, however, the odds of them eventually making it into the tournament were only of a theoretic nature to begin with.

This marks the third time in the last four years that the Patriots have failed to reach the playoffs. After qualifying in 11 straight seasons between 2009 and 2019 — and in 17 of 19 dating back to 2001 — they have only earned enough regular season wins once since the departure of long-time starting quarterback Tom Brady in March 2020.

They did manage to make the tournament as a 10-7 wild card team in 2021, but failed to do so in the three other post-Brady seasons: New England going 7-9 in 2020 and 8-9 in 2022 did not allow them to punch a ticket; this season’s playoff hopes already took a nosedive in early October.

The Patriots’ failure to make the playoffs in 2023 also extends their streak of not winning any postseason games to five years; their last win in an elimination setting came in Super Bowl LIII against the Los Angeles Rams.

There are several reasons for that recent dry spell, including some significant personnel turnover both on and off the field. The biggest change, however, took place at the quarterback position.

After Brady’s departure to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the Patriots brought in veteran Cam Newton, followed by three years of Mac Jones. However, neither has been able to provide any long-term stability. New England therefore appears to be headed back to the drawing board at the most important position this coming offseason — one that might just see them hold a top-3 selection in the draft.