Patriots Playoff Picture: Things Look Bleak?

Despite winning on Sunday to move into a three-way tie atop the AFC East, the New England Patriots are actually still out of the playoff picture if the season ended today. Here's what the Pats need.

The New England Patriots defeated the Seattle Seahawks Sunday to improve to 8-5 on the season and keep their chances for the postseason alive. Though, barring a collapse by the New York Jets and the Miami Dolphins, the Patriots still need some help to make the playoffs. It's possible New England can win out the remaining games to improve their chances, but if either Miami or New York does the same, the Patriots are still on the outside looking in.

Heading into Sunday's matchup, New England held the 7th spot for postseason seeds… otherwise known as sitting at home watching the games. The top teams were: (1) Titans (South), (2) Steelers (North), (3) Jets (East), (4) Broncos (West), The No. 5 seed was held by the 8-4 Colts and No 6. by the Ravens (8-4).

When the New York Jets fell to the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday and the Miami Dolphins defeated the Buffalo Bills, both teams moved into a tie with the Patriots at 8-5. Even though both teams split their series at 1-1 with the Patriots, New England loses out on the tiebreaker due to their conference record. The Jets hold the top spot due to their division record.

If the Patriots can't get a game ahead of the Jets or the Dolphins, New England's only chance for a playoff spot is if they can get ahead of the Colts or the Ravens.

For now, Patriots fans are fans of any team playing the Jets, Dolphins, Colts or Ravens. Which made Sunday night's Redskins-Ravens game important for another reason -- NBC bumped the Seahawks game from prime time to take the Ravens game. With Baltimore's win on Sunday, they effectively hold a two-game lead over New England with three games to go.

Baltimore has three tough games ahead with Pittsburgh, @ Dallas and Jacksonville. If Baltimore defeats Pittsburgh this week, the Steelers still hold the tiebreaker as they won thei first game. Baltimore holds the second wildcard spot and will only need to win one of their final two to eliminate both New England and Miami. (new England loses on conference record, Miami on head-to-head).

The Colts can knock the Patriots out with two wins out of the final three. The Patriots lost to Indianapolis earlier during the season so the Patriots will need to finish one game better than Indy to get a wildcard. Indy looks like they're set with matchups against the lowly Lions next week, @ Jacksonville and then home against the Titans who are likely to rest their starters. LAst season when the Colts had their playoff seeding set, the Colts pulled their starters in the final game early allowing the Titans to win and advance into the playoffs by kocking the Browns out based on tiebreakers. The move led to some discussion about playoff seeding which could be revisited if the same two coaches agree to do the same thing.

The Jets' remaining games are Buffalo, @ Seattle and home vs Miami. Thei rgame against Miami ensures at least one of the two teams will lose that game, giving New England the opportunity to tie for best record, but lose out on tiebreakers.

The Dolphins' remaining games are home vs San Francisco, home vs Kansas City and at the Jets.

The likelihood of either the Dolphins or the Jets winning the division is fairly high compared to the Patriots according to a statistical predictor website called Based upon their forumla, the Jets have a 58.5% chance to make the postseason, the Dolphins 29.2% and the Patriots 19.4%.


AFC Playoff Standings as of Monday:

Division Leaders
1Tennessee* 12-1
3NY Jets8-5
5Indianapolis 9-4
6Baltimore 9-4
On The Bubble
7Miami Dolphins8-5
8New England Patriots8-5
9Buffalo Bills6-7
10San Diego Chargers5-8

* clinched the division title

Eliminated: Houston Texans (6-7), Cleveland Browns (4-9), Jacksonville Jaguars (4-9), Oakland Raiders (3-10), Kansas City Chiefs (2-11), Cincinnati Bengals (1-11-1)

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