Mac Jones and the New England Patriots had an opportunity to clinch the AFC East in Week 16. Josh Allen and the rival Buffalo Bills ensured there was no celebration at Gillette Stadium in the final days of December.
Now, it’s January, and the 9-6 Patriots are still alive in the postseason hunt. Although New England cannot clinch the AFC East in Week 17, the Patriots still have an excellent opportunity at securing a playoff berth yet again.
Mac Jones and the Patriots can officially lock up a playoff berth in Week 17
The Patriots needed two things to happen in Week 16. First, they had to defeat Allen and the Bills on Sunday, Dec. 26, for the second time in a month. Miami also needed the New Orleans Saints to beat the streaking Miami Dolphins a day later.
Neither event occurred, so here we go again. To lock up a playoff berth this weekend, New England needs to beat the miserable Jacksonville Jaguars at home. Simple enough, right? Well, don’t forget the Jaguars’ two victories this year came against Buffalo and Miami, the AFC’s current No. 4 and No. 7 seeds.
Next, the Patriots need one of two outcomes elsewhere in the AFC. A New England win coupled with either Dolphins or Las Vegas Raiders losing is all the Patriots require at this point. Miami plays at the Tennessee Titans, and the Raiders are at Indianapolis.
Luckily for the Patriots, the Bills cannot clinch the AFC East in Week 17. New England hosts Miami in Week 18, and the Bills host the woeful New York Jets.
The Patriots’ best option is rooting for the Titans or the Colts
In addition to the two circumstances mentioned above, the Patriots also have several playoff-clinching scenarios involving a New England tie and multiple other teams losing.
For everyone’s sake, the Patriots are best suited trying to achieve one of the first two scenarios: win and hope Miami or Las Vegas loses. The Patriots last tied in 1967, eight years before Bill Belichick began his coaching career.
For those genuinely interested in the scenarios involving ties, the simplest one involves New England tying, the Dolphins losing, and the Baltimore Ravens losing to or tying the Los Angeles Rams.
At this point, we should be prepared for the Patriots to clinch their playoff spot in Week 17 via a drawn-out scenario involving a tie and four other teams losing or tying. Let’s get weird in 2022.
Which other AFC teams can clinch a playoff berth in Week 17?
The Kansas City Chiefs were the only AFC team that entered Week 17 with a playoff berth. There is an excellent chance that number will increase on Sunday alone.
The Bills are in with a win and the Ravens losing or tying, among other scenarios. Cincinnati can clinch the AFC North with a victory over Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs. A Ravens loss and a tie between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Cleveland Browns would also gift the Bengals the division.
The Colts are in with a victory over the Raiders, and Tennessee will clinch the AFC South with a victory over Miami. Even if the Titans lose, they can still clinch a playoff berth if two of the Los Angeles Chargers (home against Denver), Ravens, and Patriots all lose.