The NFL officially changed its playoff format Tuesday, which, among other tweaks, will add a third wild card team to both conferences.
The extra playoff spot will give more teams a chance to play meaningful January football, which should create plenty of excitement over the final weeks of the regular season. One team that could be in the mix for one of those wild card spots is the New England Patriots.
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The Patriots are about to enter a new era. Longtime quarterback Tom Brady, who spent the last 20 years and won six Super Bowl championships with the Patriots, left the franchise to sign with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in free agency. New England also lost several important defensive players in free agency, including linebackers Kyle Van Noy and Jamie Collins.
The Patriots missed the playoffs in only one season (2002) during which Brady played more than one game. New England reached the postseason 17 times with Brady overall, and it was the AFC East winner in each of those years. In fact, the Patriots haven't entered the playoffs via a wild card berth since 1998.
Will the Patriots make the playoffs next season? Oddsmakers are giving them a pretty good chance.
DraftKings Sportsbook has odds to make the playoffs for all 32 teams. Here are the Patriots odds: Yes (-200), No (+165)
DK doesn't have odds for which teams will make the playoffs in a wild card spot, but it does offer odds on the division winners. The Patriots, despite losing Brady and other key players in free agency, still are the betting favorites to win the AFC East at +100 odds. The Buffalo Bills are closely behind at +160, followed by the New York Jets (+750) and Miami Dolphins (+900).
The Patriots' ability to return to the playoffs likely will depend on the play of second-year quarterback Jarrett Stidham, who is the favorite to win the starting job. A lot of talent remains on the Patriots roster, but there still are a several areas that need upgrading. Luckily for the Patriots, they own 12 picks in the 2020 NFL Draft, which will help head coach Bill Belichick surround Stidham with more talent and add youth to the defense