The New England Patriots can assure themselves of a playoff berth by beating the Buffalo Bills on Sunday. It won’t be easy heading into Buffalo’s Highmark Stadium to face the Bills, who entered the week as the favorite to win the Super Bowl.
Should the Bills win, the Patriots could still find a way to sneak into that final spot in the AFC playoff picture, but that path is much tougher.
The New England Patriots have a tough Week 18 ahead of them
If you’re a glass-half-full Patriots fan, you’ll gladly take the opportunity for a win-and-in matchup, even though it’s against one of the best teams in their stadium. The Pats control their own destiny. Pull out the victory, and the season continues.
If you’re the glass-half-empty type, you know the opportunity is there, but the chances of getting it done are tough. You must either beat the top-seeded Bills, who opened Week 18 as a 7.5-point favorite. If that fails, there’s still another opportunity.
Should the Patriots lose to the Bills, they must get some help from three other teams in order to squeeze into the postseason. On Saturday, the Jacksonville Jaguars must beat the Tennessee Titans in a game to decide the AFC South champion.
On Sunday, New England will need the rival New York Jets to go to Miami and knock off the Dolphins. The Jets are riding a five-game losing streak, but the Dolphins were down to their third-string quarterback last week against the Patriots.
They’ll also need the Cleveland Browns to pull out a road win over the surging Pittsburgh Steelers, who have won three straight.
The Patriots have struggled mightily against the Bills lately
The easiest road to the playoffs for New England would be to take care of its own business in Buffalo. There would be no scoreboard-watching necessary if the Patriots could pull off the upset of its AFC East rivals.
That also might be the most difficult path.
The Patriots, who have struggled mightily on offense this year, have failed miserably when facing the Bills recently. On Dec. 1, the Pats hosted the Bills and dropped a 24-10 decision in a game that wasn’t nearly as close as the final score.
In their two meetings before that game, the Bills combined to put up 80 points, the last coming in a 47-17 playoff victory. In those two matchups, the Bills never punted. The last time the Patriots beat the Bills came during a wild wind/rain storm in Buffalo last season. In that 14-10 win, Patriots quarterback Mac Jones attempted three passes and threw for 19 yards.
The other option for New England might actually be easier than beating the Bills in Buffalo. The Jaguars enter as a touchdown favorite at home against the Titans. The Jets are a pick against the short-handed Dolphins. Pittsburgh entered as a three-point favorite against the Browns, who went into Washington and eliminated the Commanders from playoff contention.