It might be too little, too late, but the New England Patriots received some help Sunday from two fellow AFC playoff hopefuls.
The Miami Dolphins and Las Vegas Raiders both dropped their Week 14 matchups, losing to the Kansas City Chiefs 33-27 and the Indianapolis Colts 44-27, respectively.
The 8-5 Dolphins and 7-6 Raiders still lead the 6-7 Patriots in the battle for the conference’s three wild-card berths, but their defeats narrowed the gap. The Patriots own head-to-head tiebreakers over both teams, with a Miami rematch forthcoming in Week 15.
New England blew a chance to significantly improve its playoff odds when it lost to the Los Angeles Rams 24-3 on Thursday night, but the Patriots club remain mathematically alive in the playoff chase. MSNBC’s Steve Kornacki set their chances of qualification at 6 percent after Sunday’s games.
The Colts and Tennessee Titans both won Sunday to improve to 9-4. The Cleveland Browns (9-3) and Baltimore Ravens (7-5) are scheduled to play Monday night.
A Ravens loss also would help the Patriots, as they beat Baltimore head-to-head earlier this season.
Here’s an updated look at the AFC playoff standings:
1. Kansas City Chiefs (12-1, AFC West winner)
2. Pittsburgh Steelers (11-2, AFC North leader)
3. Buffalo Bills (10-3, AFC East leader)
4. Tennessee Titans (9-4, AFC South leader)
5. Cleveland Browns (9-3, first wild card)
6. Indianapolis Colts (9-4, second wild card)
7. Miami Dolphins (8-5, third wild card)
8. Baltimore Ravens (7-5)
9. Las Vegas Raiders (7-6)
10. New England Patriots (6-7)
And here are the remaining schedules for the primary wild-card contenders:
Browns: vs. Ravens, at Giants, at Jets, vs. Steelers
Dolphins: vs Patriots, at Raiders, at Bills
Colts: vs. Texans, at Steelers, vs. Jaguars
Titans: vs. Lions, at Packers, at Texans
Raiders: vs. Chargers, vs. Dolphins, at Broncos
Ravens: at Browns, vs. Jaguars, vs. Giants, at Bengals
Patriots: at Dolphins, vs. Bills, vs. Jets
Any Patriots path to the postseason must begin with them winning their final three games to finish 9-7. If they do that, they would earn a wild-card spot if three of the following five scenarios play out:
— Browns lose each of their final four games
— Colts or Titans lose each of their final three games
— Dolphins lose at least two of their final three games
— Raiders lose at least one of their final three games
— Ravens lose at least two of their final four games
The Patriots already are guaranteed to win fewer than 10 games for the first time since 2002. They have not missed the playoffs since 2008.