If the New England Patriots can snap their two-game losing skid Monday in Arizona, they’ll move back into the playoff picture in the AFC.
The New York Jets’ 20-12 loss to the Buffalo Bills on Sunday dropped them to 7-6 on the season. Since the 6-6 Patriots own the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Jets, beating the Cardinals on “Monday Night Football” would allow them to leapfrog New York in the standings and reclaim the third and final AFC wild-card spot.
A win also would push New England back ahead of the Los Angeles Chargers, who defeated the Miami Dolphins, 23-17, on Sunday night to improve to 7-6. The 8-5 Dolphins, who have lost two straight following a five-game win streak, now lead the Jets by just one game and the Patriots by 1 1/2 games in the AFC East standings.
Below is an updated look at the AFC playoff race entering Monday. Seven teams in each conference will qualify, with the two No. 1 seeds receiving first-round byes.
1. Buffalo Bills (10-3; AFC East leader)
2. Kansas City Chiefs (10-3; AFC West leader)
3. Baltimore Ravens (9-4; AFC North leader)
4. Tennessee Titans (7-6; AFC South leader)
5. Cincinnati Bengals (9-4; first wild card)
6. Miami Dolphins (8-5; second wild card)
7. Los Angeles Chargers (7-6; third wild card)
8. New York Jets (7-6)
9. New England Patriots (6-6)
After visiting the Cardinals, the Patriots will practice in Arizona for a week ahead of next Sunday’s road matchup with the Las Vegas Raiders. With difficult games against the Bengals (home), Dolphins (home) and Bills (road) awaiting in the final three weeks of the regular season, anything less than a sweep out west could crush New England’s hopes of landing a playoff berth.
Following Sunday night’s result, analytics site FiveThirtyEight gave the Patriots — who are coming off back-to-back losses to the Minnesota Vikings and Bills — a 25% chance of making the playoffs. A win over Arizona would boost those odds to 39% with four weeks remaining, while a loss would drop them to 12%.
The Dolphins will visit Buffalo this Saturday night before finishing with games against the Green Bay Packers, Patriots and Jets. The Jets have the Detroit Lions and Jacksonville Jaguars at home, then the Seattle Seahawks and Dolphins on the road. The Chargers are home against the Titans, at the Indianapolis Colts, home against the Los Angeles Rams and at the Denver Broncos to close out their schedule.
The Patriots are pegged as 1.5-point road favorites over the 4-8 Cardinals, who have dropped four of their last five games and six of their last eight. Kickoff on Monday at State Farm Stadium is set for 8:15 p.m. ET.