The New England Patriots are still in the AFC playoff race after beating the Arizona Cardinals at Gillette Stadium on Sunday, but the 20-17 victory doesn't help the team's position in the 2021 NFL Draft.
The Patriots were slotted at the No. 12 pick in the first round of next year's draft following their Week 11 loss to the Houston Texans.
After beating the Cardinals in Week 12, the Patriots fell three spots in the draft order to No. 15.
Here's a look at the updated 2021 NFL Draft order for the first round, excluding teams currently in a playoff spot (via Tankathon).
- New York Jets, 0-11
- Jacksonville Jaguars, 1-10
- Cincinnati Bengals, 2-8-1
- Dallas Cowboys, 3-8
- L.A. Chargers, 3-8
- Carolina Panthers, 4-8
- Philadelphia Eagles, 3-6-1
- Washington Football Team, 4-7
- Detroit Lions, 4-7
- Atlanta Falcons, 4-7
- Miami Dolphins (via Houston Texans, 4-7)
- Denver Broncos, 4-7
- Minnesota Vikings, 5-6
- Chicago Bears, 5-6
- New England Patriots, 5-6
- San Francisco 49ers, 5-6
- Las Vegas Raiders, 6-5
- Baltimore Ravens, 6-4
There's a segment of Patriots fans who were disappointed by Sunday's win. They don't view the Patriots as legit contenders -- or even a team capable of making the playoffs -- and would rather see them lose as many games as possible in order to get the highest attainable first-round pick.
The higher the Patriots pick in the first round, the higher the chance of them being able to land a franchise quarterback to lead the offense into the future. Right now, it doesn't look like New England has a franchise quarterback already on its roster.
The other side of the argument makes sense, too. Why not try to win as many games as possible and pursue a playoff berth? It's important to maintain the team's winning culture, and playing meaningful games late in the season would be valuable experience for the team's younger players.
The worst place the Patriots can be is in the middle -- stuck between the final playoff spot and a high first-round pick. Unfortunately for the Pats, they are close to that point right now. The chances of the Patriots earning a top seven pick are pretty low, and their odds to make the playoffs also are small (just 12 percent, according to FiveThirtyEight).
The Patriots return to game action Sunday afternoon with a Week 13 matchup at the Los Angeles Chargers. It's a very winnable game for the Patriots, but as we saw in Week 11 versus the Texans, you can't rule out any kind of performance with this New England team, even against inferior opponents.