BOSTON (CBS) — The Miami Dolphins won their seventh straight game Monday night to crash the AFC playoff picture, climbing into the final Wild Card spot with a 20-3 victory over the New Orleans Saints. It will make for an exciting and riveting final two weeks of the regular season in the AFC.
Thanks to that Dolphins win on Monday night, it could also go horribly, horribly wrong for the New England Patriots, who have lost two straight and fallen to the sixth-seed in the AFC. Both teams control their own playoff fate, and they’ll meet in Week 18 in Miami. The Dolphins hold the tie-breaker over the Patriots at the moment thanks to their Week 1 win in New England.
Talk about drama.
Here’s a look at the AFC Standings heading into Week 17:
1. Kansas City Chiefs, 10-5 (AFC West Champs)
2. Tennessee Titans, 10-5 (AFC South leaders)
3. Buffalo Bills, 9-6 (AFC East leaders)
4. Cincinnati Bengals, 9-6 (AFC North leaders)
5. Indianapolis Colts, 9-6 (Wild Card)
6. New England Patriots, 9-6 (Wild Card)
7. Miami Dolphins, 8-7 (Wild Card)
8. L.A. Chargers, 8-7
9. Las Vegas Raiders, 8-7
10. Baltimore Ravens, 8-7
11. Pittsburgh Steelers, 7-7-1
It’s simple for the Patriots: Win out and they’re at least a Wild Card team. There is also some wiggle room if they drop another game, but that makes it a lot more difficult to secure a spot in the playoffs and would require help elsewhere. That is not an ideal spot for a team to find themselves in come Week 18.
Winning this weekend shouldn’t be too difficult for New England, given the Pats will host the 2-13 Jacksonville Jaguars, a team looking to lock up the No. 1 overall pick for the second straight season. The Patriots can clinch a playoff spot this weekend with a win and a Raiders loss in Indianapolis or a Dolphins loss in Tennessee.
But the Raiders are catching a big break this weekend, with Colts quarterback Carsen Wentz landing on the Reserve/COVID list on Tuesday.
Miami also needs to win out to clinch, though there is a scenario where the Dolphins and the Patriots both make the playoffs. The Raiders, at 8-7, remain in the mix, and close out the season with at Indianapolis and against the L.A. Chargers.
If the Patriots do the unthinkable and lose to Jacksonville, while the Raiders and the Dolphins both pick up wins in Week 17, then New England would head into the final week of the regular season clinging to the final Wild Card spot in the AFC and facing a must-win in Miami. The Dolphins and the Raiders would have an opportunity to push them out of the playoff picture completely with wins in Week 18. But the Chargers, Steelers and Ravens also remain in the mix, making for a rather muddy playoff picture as we head into Week 17. (You can play with all the scenarios on FiveThirtyEight.com until you give yourself a Popsicle headache, if you’d like.)
Again, the Patriots just need to win their final two games to secure a playoff spot. They still have a 94 percent chance of making the postseason after Miami’s Monday night victory (they were at 96 percent heading into Monday night), and they’re still in control of their postseason fate.
It’s not as nice of a position as the one they were in a few short weeks ago, but it’s still a pretty good one for the Patriots.