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Patriots playoff chances: How New England can earn AFC wild card — or win AFC East — in NFL playoff picture

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The Patriots (7-6) ended their two-game losing streak and got back above .500 for the 2022 NFL season after beating the Cardinals 27-13 in Arizona to close Week 14. The victory over an NFC opponent was needed coming off tough losses to the Vikings and Bills.

New England is trying to make the playoffs for a second consecutive season under Bill Belichick with Mac Jones at quarterback. It was the No. 6 seed in 2021; will the team get in again in ’22? Here’s breaking down the Patriots’ playoff chances for the final four weeks:

Where do the Patriots stand in the AFC playoff picture?

The Patriots are the No. 7 seed, just behind the No. 6 Dolphins (8-5). They are even with the Chargers (7-6) and Jets (7-6) in terms of overall record, but hold the conference-record tiebreaker over both teams. They still have an outside shot at catching the No. 1 Bills (10-3) as they are three games back with four left to play.

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What playoff tiebreakers are in the Patriots’ favor?

The Patriots are 5-3 in AFC play, while the Chargers are 5-4 and the Jets are 5-5. They also swept the Jets to own that head-to-head tiebreaker. The Patriots lost to the Dolphins and the Bills in the first meetings with those teams, in Weeks 1 and 13.

The Patriots don’t play the Chargers or Jaguars (5-8) this season, but they also have wins over the Browns (5-8 and Steelers (5-8). They did lose, however, to the Ravens (9-4), the current No. 3 seed. The Raiders (5-8) and Bengals (9-4) remain on the schedule.

What games are left on the Patriots’ schedule?

New England goes to Las Vegas with Bill Belichick facing off with Josh McDaniels in Week 15. Then comes the home game vs. red-hot Joe Burrow and Cincinnati at home in Week 16 to wrap up interdivison play.

The Patriots close with a home rematch vs. the Dolphins in Week 17 before playing the Bills again in Buffalo in Week 18. It won’t be easy for the Patriots to finish better than 1-3 against that collection of opponents.

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How good are the Patriots’ wild-card chances now?

The Patriots have about a 25 percent shot of making the playoffs, a little bit better than the Jets. The Chargers have the edge over both teams with a much more favorable closing schedule.

The Dolphins also can create another wild-card opening because they still play the Bills, Patriots, Jets, in that order over the final four weeks.

How can the Patriots still win the AFC East?

If the Patriots finish 4-0 to get to 11-6 overall, including beating the Bills in New England in Week 18, they would jump the Bills outright if that team lost its other three remaining games (vs. Dolphins, at Bears, at Bengals) to finish 10-7.

If the Patriots finish 4-0 while the Bills finish 1-3 and both have 11-6 records, then the Patriots would hold the tiebreaker based on a superior division record, 4-2 vs. no better than 3-3 for the Bills.

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If the Patriots finish 3-1 to get to 10-7 overall and the Bills lose out from 10-3, then the Patriots would hold the tiebreaker based on a superior division record, 4-2 vs. 2-4 for the Bills.

Whether they finish 4-0 or 3-1 in a last-ditch attempt to win the division, the Patriots also need to make sure they beat the Dolphins in Week 17. For taking the East outright in that scenario, they would need the Dolphins lose one of their other two games to either the Packers in Miami in Week 16 or the Jets in Miami in Week 18.

The Patriots cannot win the division regardless of what happens with the Bills if the Dolphins stay one game ahead of them.



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