Patriots

NFL playoff picture: What's at stake for Pats in Chiefs-Chargers game on TNF

Patriots

The Los Angeles Chargers host the Kansas City Chiefs on Thursday night, and the New England Patriots have a few good reasons to tune in.

While the 9-4 Patriots enter Week 15 as the AFC's No. 1 seed, the Chiefs (9-4; No. 3 seed) and Chargers (8-5; No. 5 seed) are both right behind them. New England easily could see either team in the postseason, so its scouts will be taking notes as Patrick Mahomes and Justin Herbert duke it out.

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Thursday's matchup also has major ramifications for the AFC playoff race, with just three games remaining for both teams after this game. Here's how the results of Chiefs-Chargers will impact the Patriots' chances of finishing as the AFC's No. 1 seed and winning the Super Bowl, per FiveThirtyEight's predictive model:

Patriots' Odds Secure No. 1 seed Win Super Bowl
If Chiefs win 40% 14%
If Chargers win 53% 16%

The takeaway: Patriots fans should be rooting for Herbert and the Chargers on Thursday.

If Los Angeles upsets its AFC West rival, the Chargers and Chiefs will be tied a half-game behind New England at 9-5. The Patriots own the tiebreaker over both clubs (in-conference record), so even if they lose to the Indianapolis Colts on Saturday, they'd still be the No. 1 seed unless the Tennessee Titans (9-4) beat the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday.

If Kansas City extends its winning streak to seven games, it moves to 10-4 and forces New England to beat the Colts to retain its position atop the AFC.

AFC Contender Remaining Schedules
NBC Sports Boston Illustration

There's a scenario in which the Patriots fall to the No. 3 seed this weekend if they lose and the Chiefs and Titans both win. But a Chargers victory would guarantee them no worse than the No. 2 seed entering Week 16.

 

Thursday's 8:20 p.m. ET matchup should be a great game, and Patriots fans have a legitimate rooting interest.