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Can the Patriots still make the playoffs after losing to the Rams? Here’s what needs to happen

A lot is going to have to go right for Cam Newton (1) and the Patriots to get close to a playoff berth.Sean M. Haffey/Getty

The Patriots really needed this one.

Thursday night’s 24-3 loss to the Los Angeles Rams essentially squashed New England’s chances of making the playoffs this year. According to the statistical website FiveThirtyEight, the Patriots now have just a 4 percent chance of advancing to the postseason. Even if they win out, those chances jump to only 24 percent.

“It is what it is right now,” said safety Devin McCourty. “We’ll keep fighting.”

Heading into Thursday’s game, the Patriots controlled much of their own destiny. Had they beat the Rams and then won the final three games on their schedule to finish 10-6, FiveThirtyEight gave them a 94 percent chance of making the playoffs.


Now, however, the Patriots are going to need a lot of help. A lot of help.

First things first, though: To preserve any hopes of reaching the postseason, New England still needs to win out and finish 9-7. Their remaining opponents are all divisional foes: at the Dolphins and home against the Bills and Jets.

If the Patriots lose any one of those games, their chances drop below 1 percent. If they lose two, they’re mathematically eliminated.

“Until you’re eliminated, [the playoffs continue] to be the goal,” McCourty said. “We’ll continue to fight and win every game left on our schedule.”

Say New England does win out. Because the Patriots beat the Dolphins in Week 1 (and also in Week 15, per this hypothetical situation), the Raiders in Week 3, and the Ravens in Week 10, they hold each of the head-to-head tiebreakers. So, if all four teams finish 9-7, the Patriots would clinch the final wild-card spot.

That scenario is their “simplest” path to the postseason: The 7-5 Raiders would have to lose at least two of their last four games (vs. Colts, vs. Chargers, vs. Dolphins, @ Broncos), the 7-5 Ravens would have to lose at least two of their last four (@ Browns, vs. Jaguars, vs. Giants, @ Bengals), and the 8-4 Dolphins would have to lose at least three of their last four (vs. Chiefs, vs. Patriots, @ Raiders, @ Bills).


If all of that happens, the Patriots will earn a playoff berth for the 12th straight season.

If not, a playoff berth still is possible. Things just get a little bit tougher.

The Patriots would need at least three of the following scenarios to play out:

1. The Raiders lose at least two of their last four.

2. The Ravens lose at least two of their last four.

3. The Dolphins lose at least three of their last four.

4. The 9-3 Browns lose all of their remaining four games (vs. Ravens, @ Giants, @ Jets, vs. Steelers).

5. The 8-4 Colts lose at least three of their last four (@ Raiders, vs. Texans, @ Steelers, vs. Jaguars) or the 8-4 Titans lose at least three of their last four (@ Jaguars, vs. Lions, @ Packers, @ Texans).

So, is it possible for the Patriots to make the playoffs? Sure. But it’s going to require assistance from multiple AFC teams also in the hunt.

“In our control is just preparing and trying to win three games,” said McCourty. “Everything else, we can’t worry about. Our record is what it is. We put ourselves in this position.

“I think, as competitors, we just put all that behind us and prepare for these next three games. Whatever the outcome is, we got to live with it.”


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Nicole Yang can be reached at her @nicolecyang.