After back-to-back losses, the New England Patriots were able to return to the win column in Week 5. While they played a sloppy game at times and found themselves in a 13-point hole in the early third quarter, they fought back and eventually defeated the Houston Texans on the road with a final score of 25-22.
As a result of the win, the Patriots are entering Week 6 with a 2-3 record. While they are still below .500 they are naturally in a better position within both the AFC East and the AFC as a whole thanks to their road win.
With that said, let’s take a look at the current playoff picture in the AFC and where the conference’s 16 teams are standing five games into the season:
- Los Angeles Chargers (4-1)
- Baltimore Ravens (4-1)
- Buffalo Bills (4-1)
- Tennessee Titans (3-2)
- Cincinnati Bengals (3-2)
- Las Vegas Raiders (3-2)
- Denver Broncos (3-2)
On the bubble: Cleveland Browns (3-2), New England Patriots (2-3), Pittsburgh Steelers (2-3), Kansas City Chiefs (2-3), Miami Dolphins (1-4), Houston Texans (1-4), New York Jets (1-4), Indianapolis Colts (1-4), Jacksonville Jaguars (0-5)
While the Chargers, Ravens and Bills sit atop the AFC at the moment, the Patriots are on the outside looking in as far as the playoff picture is concerned: they are the number nine seed and thus the second-best team in their division behind Buffalo. There is plenty of football left to be played this season, though, meaning that it is not unrealistic that a team currently on the bubble eventually finds its way into the playoff picture when all is said and done.
For the Patriots to be that team they will have to start playing more consistent football — something head coach Bill Belichick also pointed out after the game in Houston. Likewise, teams currently ahead of them will need to accumulate some losses.
That being said, not everyone is confident that New England will be able to leapfrog at least two of the clubs currently ranked higher. According to FiveThirtyEight’s playoff chance calculations, New England has only the 11th best odds in the AFC to make the cut:
While the Patriots will play three more games against teams from the worst division in football — the AFC South, home to the Titans, Colts, Jaguars and Texans — they also have some challenging matchups on their schedule as well. Buffalo awaits twice, while New England will also go up against Los Angeles and Cleveland, among others.
Needless to say that the road to the postseason is still a tough one for the Patriots. The must-win in Houston did help, however.
As far as the NFC is concerned, its playoff picture currently looks as follows:
- Arizona Cardinals (5-0)
- Dallas Cowboys (4-1)
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-1)
- Green Bay Packers (4-1)
- Los Angeles Rams (4-1)
- Chicago Bears (3-2)
- Carolina Panthers (3-2)
On the bubble: New Orleans Saints (3-2), Washington Football Team (2-3), Minnesota Vikings (2-3), Philadelphia Eagles (2-3), Seattle Seahawks (2-3), San Francisco 49ers (2-3), Atlanta Falcons (2-3), New York Giants (1-4), Detroit Lions (0-5)
The Patriots’ upcoming opponent, the Cowboys, are currently the second seed in the NFC. The team of second-year head coach Mike McCarthy is on a four-game winning streak and has looked like one of the most complete squads in the league through five games.