AFC playoff picture: Pats fans should keep tabs on these Week 14 games


The New England Patriots will get some much-needed rest this weekend after Thursday night's loss to the Los Angeles Rams, but you can bet they will be keeping a close eye on several of the other Week 14 NFL games.

The AFC playoff races are heating up, and the Patriots need a lot of help if they're going to reach the postseason for the 12th consecutive year. This means the Pats need a couple teams ahead of them to lose two or more games over the remainder of the regular season. 

And if you look at this week's schedule, it's quite possible that several of these teams could lose.

Phil Perry's report card for Patriots vs. Rams

Here are four games with playoff implications for Patriots to keep tabs on during Sunday's Week 14 action.

Sunday, Dec. 13

Kansas City Chiefs at Miami Dolphins, 1 p.m. ET, CBS

The Dolphins enter Sunday leading the Patriots by 2.5 games in the AFC East and in the chase for a wild card spot. If the Dolphins lose to the Chiefs -- ESPN's Football Power Index gives K.C. a 76.4 chance to win -- the Patriots would have a chance to pull within a game of Miami when they travel to South Florida for a Week 15 matchup. 

Indianapolis Colts at Las Vegas, 4:05 p.m. ET, CBS

This is a pretty big game for the Patriots, and unfortunately for them, it's impossible for both of these teams to lose. It would be better for the Pats if the Raiders won because Las Vegas leads New England by just 1.5 games in the standings. Indy is 2.5 games ahead of the Patriots. Let's also not forget the Patriots own the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Raiders.


Pittsburgh Steelers at Buffalo Bills, 8:20 p.m. ET, NBC

The Bills still have more work to do to win their first AFC East title since 1995. However, if the Bills beat the Steelers on Sunday night, Buffalo will eliminate the Patriots from the division title race. The Patriots have won the AFC East in 11 consecutive seasons. This scenario would make a wild card spot New England's only path back to the postseason.

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Monday, Dec. 14

Baltimore Ravens at Cleveland Browns (9-3), 8:15 p.m. ET, ESPN

The Browns made a statement with their 41-35 win over the AFC South-leading Titans last week, and now they have a tough division matchup against the Ravens.

Baltimore has won six of the last eight meetings with Cleveland, including a 38-6 victory in Week 1. The Ravens are 1.5 games ahead of the Patriots in the wild card race, and New England owns the head-to-head tiebreaker with Baltimore.