In the immortal words of Lloyd Christmas, ‘So you’re telling me there’s a chance.”
Yes, the New England Patriots, who throttled the Los Angeles Chargers 45-0 on Sunday, do have a chance of earning a playoff spot in the jam-packed AFC. A 21 percent chance, according to Steve Kornacki’s NBC projections.
In that same model, the Patriots entered the weekend with a 15 percent chance of making the postseason. Had they lost to the Chargers, that number would have plummeted to close to zero.
But after a miserable 2-5 start to the season, the Patriots remain very much alive. Unfortunately for them, they didn’t receive much help Sunday.
Losses by the Miami Dolphins, Indianapolis Colts and/or Las Vegas Raiders would have boosted New England’s playoff odds, but all three won, with two doing so in dramatic fashion.
While Miami made relatively quick work of the Brandon Allen-led Cincinnati Bengals, Indianapolis appeared on the verge of defeat against the feisty Houston Texans until this happened:
The Raiders, meanwhile, rallied to beat the winless New York Jets with an assist from Jets defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, who made the baffling decision to call an all-out blitz up four with 13 seconds remaining.
Rookie speedster Henry Ruggs III beat single coverage for a game-winning 46-yard touchdown.
The Raiders win kept the Jets in the driver’s seat for Trevor Lawrence and prevented the Patriots — who own the head-to-head tiebreaker over Las Vegas — from vaulting up a spot in the AFC standings.
The Patriots can move up one place if the Baltimore Ravens lose to the Dallas Cowboys on Tuesday, as they also beat Baltimore head-to-head earlier this season.
Here’s an updated look at the AFC wild-card race and the remaining schedules for each of the Patriots’ primary competitors:
5. Cleveland Browns (9-3)
6. Miami Dolphins (8-4)
7. Indianapolis Colts (8-4)
8. Las Vegas Raiders (7-5)
9. Baltimore Ravens (6-5)
10. New England Patriots (6-6)
Miami: vs. Kansas City, vs. New England, at Las Vegas, at Buffalo
Indianapolis: at Las Vegas, vs. Houston, at Pittsburgh, vs. Jacksonville
Las Vegas: vs. Indianapolis, vs. L.A. Chargers, vs. Miami, at Denver
Baltimore: vs. Dallas, at Cleveland, vs. Jacksonville, vs. N.Y. Giants, at Cincinnati
New England: at L.A. Rams, at Miami, vs. Buffalo, vs. N.Y. Jets
While it remains theoretically possible for the Patriots to sneak into the playoffs at 9-7, they’ll need to win out and finish 10-6 to have a realistic shot. Bill Belichick’s club has been hot of late, sandwiching a pair of two-game winning streaks around an ugly Week 11 loss to the Texans.
Sunday’s resounding beatdown of Justin Herbert and the Chargers was New England’s most complete effort of the season, featuring suffocating defense, a powerful rushing attack and phenomenal special teams.
?We just have to understand that we?ve just got to take it one game at a time,” quarterback Cam Newton said in his postgame video conference. “We understand what position we are in, and everything is pretty much in front of us. We?ve just got to really hone in and focus on the opponents that we (are facing) that week and maximize each and every opportunity that we do get.
“And I think if we keep that doing on, we?ll be in good graces.”