Patriots

How pivotal is Rams game for Pats' playoff chances? Here's what one model says

Patriots

The New England Patriots don't have any room for error in their pursuit of a playoff berth in the AFC.

The team's postseason appearance streak is in serious jeopardy of ending at 11 seasons, but the Patriots do have a chance of sneaking in.

It's a small one, though.

FiveThirtyEight's statistical model gives the Patriots a 16 percent chance of making the playoffs in the AFC after their 45-0 win over the Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday.

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How would a win over the Los Angeles Rams on "Thursday Night Football" impact those odds? A victory at SoFi Stadium would give the Patriots a 33 percent chance of securing a postseason spot in FiveThirtyEight's model.

It's hard to overstate the importance of Thursday's game.

A loss would drop the Patriots' record to 6-7 with three games left to play. The best attainable record for New England in that scenario would be 9-7, which means the Patriots would need both the Indianapolis Colts and Miami Dolphins -- the teams currently occupying the last two AFC wild card spots -- to lose three of their final four games just to finish with the same record.

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New England does have some favorable tiebreaker scenarios, however.

The two teams in front of them are the Las Vegas Raiders (No. 8 in AFC) and Baltimore Ravens (No. 9 in AFC), and the Patriots own the head-to-head tiebreaker over both of them. They also have the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Dolphins, although New England and Miami will play once more in Week 15.

 

The schedule also isn't doing the Patriots any favors. Their next three games are against likely playoff teams -- at the Rams (NFC West leaders), at the Dolphins (second AFC wild card) and versus the Buffalo Bills (AFC East leaders). The regular season finale is a layup against the winless New York Jets.

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The Patriots can't look too far forward, though. They wouldn't be mathematically eliminated from playoff contention with a loss to the Rams on Thursday, but it would make reaching the playoffs extremely unlikely. Luckily for the Patriots, they have owned the Rams over the last two decades with a six-game win streak over the franchise since 2001.