Must-win for the Patriots?
Not so fast.
After Pittsburgh’s win Sunday night, the Pats can make the postseason next weekend in three scenarios:
A) a win
B) a tie and a Dolphins loss or tie and a Steelers loss or tie
C) a loss, a Dolphins loss, a Steelers loss and a Titans loss or tie
The Pats will kick off at Buffalo on Sunday at a time to be determined. The Patriots can only clinch the No. 7 seed in the AFC and will be rooting for the Jaguars on Saturday night versus Tennessee. Jacksonville is currently slated as a 7-point home favorite.
On Sunday, Miami will host the Jets as 3-point home favorites, though that spread could change depending on the availability of Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa. Tagovailoa missed Miami’s 23-21 loss at New England on Sunday with a concussion, and backup Teddy Bridgewater left early with a finger injury on his throwing hand. Bridgewater will reportedly miss the rest of the season, leaving third-stringer Skylar Thompson potentially in line to start against the Jets.
Thompson went 12-of-21 for 104 yards, one touchdown and an interception against the Patriots. In Week 5, Thompson played most of a 40-17 loss at New York and finished 19-of-33 for 166 yards and an interception. The Jets were eliminated from the playoffs with a 23-6 loss at Seattle on Sunday, while the Steelers kept their hopes alive with a road upset at Baltimore.
The Steelers will host Cleveland in their regular-season finale next weekend.
Below is every scenario involving the Patriots and the AFC’s third and final Wild Card spot based on FiveThirtyEight’s NFL projections:
Patriots win: Patriots
Patriots tie, Dolphins win: Dolphins
Patriots tie, Dolphins loss/tie, Steelers win: Steelers
Patriots tie, Dolphins loss/tie, Steelers loss/tie: Patriots
Patriots loss, Dolphins win: Dolphins
Patriots loss, Dolphins loss/tie, Steelers win: Steelers
Patriots loss, Dolphins tie, Steelers loss/tie: Dolphins
Patriots loss, Dolphins loss, Steelers tie: Steelers
Patriots loss, Dolphins loss, Steelers loss, Titans win: Jaguars (Titans clinch AFC South)
Patriots loss, Dolphins loss, Steelers loss, Titans loss/tie: Patriots