Patriots

AFC playoff picture: How Patriots' position improved with win vs. Cardinals

Patriots

The New England Patriots kept their playoff hopes alive by beating the Arizona Cardinals on a game-winning field goal by Nick Folk as time expired in Sunday's Week 12 matchup at Gillette Stadium.

The Patriots trailed 10-0 in the first quarter but outscored the Cardinals 17-0 over the second and third quarters to get back in the game and ultimately secure the victory. 

New England has plenty of work remaining in its pursuit of a postseason berth, but the team's position in the playoff race has certainly improved with its win over Arizona.

Phil Perry's Patriots report card for Week 12 win vs. Cardinals

Here's where the Patriots sit in the AFC standings through Sunday's Week 12 games.

In a Playoff Spot

1. Pittsburgh Steelers, 10-0 (AFC North leader)

2. Kansas City Chiefs, 10-1 (AFC West leader)

3. Tennessee Titans, 8-3 (AFC South leader)

4. Buffalo Bills, 8-3 (AFC East leader)

5. Cleveland Browns, 8-3 (First wild card)

6. Miami Dolphins, 7-4 (Second wild card)

7. Indianapolis Colts, 7-4 (Third wild card)

On the Bubble

8. Baltimore Ravens, 6-4

9. Las Vegas Raiders, 6-5

10. New England Patriots, 5-6

Unfortunately for the Patriots, several of the teams ahead of them in the wild card and AFC East races won in Week 12. 

The Buffalo Bills bolstered their lead atop the AFC East with a victory over the Los Angeles Chargers. The Miami Dolphins beat the winless Jets to maintain their second place position in the AFC East. The Cleveland Browns overcame a strong effort from the Jacksonville Jaguars to improve to 8-3. The Tennessee Titans earned an emphatic win versus the Indianapolis Colts to claim first place in the AFC South.

 
Cam Newton on the Patriots ugly win

It wasn't all bad news for the Patriots on Sunday, though. 

The Las Vegas Raiders are one of the teams ahead of the Patriots in the wild card chase, and they were beaten 43-6 by the Atlanta Falcons. The Colts' loss to the Titans drops Indianapolis to 7-4 -- just a two-game lead over the Pats. New England should pick up ground on the Baltimore Ravens, too. The Ravens play the undefeated Pittsburgh Steelers on Tuesday night and will be without starting quarterback Lamar Jackson and others due to COVID-19. A loss for the Ravens would shrink their lead over the Pats in the standings to only a single game.

Another factor in the Patriots' favor is they own the head-to-head tiebreakers over three teams in front of them -- the Raiders, Ravens and Dolphins. However, New England still has one more game against the Dolphins in Week 15 at Miami.

WATCH: Brady, Chiefs' Chris Jones get into heated verbal exchange

The Patriots can afford to lose maybe one more game if they're going to make the playoffs. Under that scenario, they would need to win four of these five remaining games:

Week 13: at Los Angeles Chargers

Week 14: at Los Angeles Rams (Thursday night)

Week 15: at Miami Dolphins 

Week 16: vs. Buffalo Bills (Monday night)

Week 17: vs. New York Jets

Overreactions from Pats' win over Cardinals

Going 4-1, or even 5-0, during this stretch is definitely doable for the Patriots. The toughest games are against the Rams on a short week and versus the Bills at home on Monday night. 

For the Patriots to reach the postseason, they must play better on the road. They are 1-4 on the road this season, and their next three matchups are away from Foxboro.