So, they still have a chance.
Following their 20-17 win over the Cardinals Sunday at Gillette Stadium, the Patriots are now 5-6 on the year, but still 10th in the AFC standings.
With that being said, they are two games behind the No. 6 and 7 seeds, so there’s still a path to making the postseason.
Thinking even more positively, if the Patriots win out they have a 96 percent chance of making the playoffs, according to FiveThirtyEight.
That seems very unlikely and they’ll likely need to win four of the five, on top of getting some help from teams ahead of them in the standings to have a chance.
Clearly, making the playoffs is a long shot — 12 percent according to FiveThirtyEight — so all that can be asked over the last month-plus of the season is to make sure all of the games matter.
Even if it’s win and hope team X, team Y and team Z lose, at least the games will have meaning.
This was the case in 2008, the last year the Patriots missed the playoffs. They beat the Bills in Week 17, but needed Miami to lose or tie to win the division, or Baltimore to lose or tie to clinch a wild card berth, and both those teams won.
Imagine hosting the Bills on Monday Night Football in Week 16 and already being eliminated from the postseason, while Buffalo likely would be looking at its first division title since 1995.
What a miserable week that would be.
And same for hosting the Jets in Week 17. At least they will likely be playing for/know they have the No. 1 overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft.
Meanwhile, the Patriots are not bad enough to really get amped about their draft selection, so at this point it’s worth going all-in on making the playoffs — even for a potential wild card round exit.
So, what does making sure all the games matter entail?
Probably winning at least two of the next three games heading into the Week 16 game vs. Buffalo. 8-8 likely won’t make the playoffs, but it probably at least gives teams some hope going into the final week of the regular season.
This will be easier said than done for New England considering its next three games are on the road (at Chargers, at Rams, at Dolphins) and it is 1-4 in road games this season. But, the Patriots have at least given themselves a chance in virtually all of them.
By winning two of their next three games, that would put them at 7-7, which certainly would not have them eliminated from postseason contention. That would take care of the Monday night game with the Bills having meaning and then go from there for Week 17.
If there’s one ask for the Patriots over the final five games, just make sure the games matter.
Nobody — players, fans, media — wants the alternative.