The New England Patriots are 2-5 and have lost four straight games after Sunday's 24-21 Week 8 defeat on the road against the Buffalo Bills.
Could the Patriots still make the playoffs for a 12th consecutive season? It's possible, but they'd need to join a small group of teams who've accomplished the feat after starting 2-5.
In fact, only four teams since 2010 have won two of their first seven games and made the playoffs. Here's that list:
2011 Denver Broncos: The Tim Tebow-led Broncos finished 8-8 to win the AFC West and host an AFC Wild Card playoff game against the Pittsburgh Steelers, which they won in overtime on Demaryius Thomas' 80-yard touchdown reception. Denver got crushed 45-10 by the Patriots the following week.
2015 Houston Texans: The Texans won seven of their last nine games after a 2-5 start to win the AFC South. Houston was pummeled 30-0 by the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC Wild Card round.
2015 Kansas City Chiefs: KC was 2-5 and won its next 10 games, including an AFC Wild Card round victory over the Texans, as noted above. The Chiefs lost to the Patriots on the road the following week.
2018 Indianapolis Colts: The Colts won nine of their final 10 games to earn a wild card playoff berth. Indy beat the Texans in the AFC Wild Card round before losing to the Chiefs in the AFC Divisional round.
If you go back to 1990, just seven teams have made the playoffs following a 2-5 start.
The Patriots will be tied for 12th place in the AFC after Sunday's late afternoon games are completed. They are 2.5 games behind the Cleveland Browns for the final playoff berth in the conference. Football Outsiders gave the Patriots just a 15.9 percent chance of earning a playoff spot entering Week 8.
In order to figure out if New England could go on a run and reach the postseason, we should look at the team's remaining schedule.
Week 9: at New York Jets Week 10: vs. Baltimore Ravens Week 11: at Houston Texans Week 12: vs. Arizona Cardinals Week 13: at Los Angeles Chargers Week 14: at Los Angeles Rams Week 15: at Miami Dolphins Week 16: vs. Buffalo Bills Week 17: vs. New York Jets
The Patriots benefit from having the winless Jets twice on their schedule, but there aren't many easy games left.
The Ravens are an elite team. The Cardinals are expected to make the playoffs. The Chargers are playing better than their record indicates. The Dolphins are 4-3 and riding a three-game win streak. The Bills are a quality team as well. Three of the Patriots' last five games are on the road, where they have yet to win (0-3) in 2020.
The Patriots maybe can afford to lose one more game, but even if that were to happen, they'd probably still need help to reach the playoffs.
A strong case could be made that losing games is the better outcome for the Patriots. Improving their draft position and potentially landing a top seven (or higher) pick in the 2021 NFL Draft likely is the smartest path to take at this point.