The Patriots Path To The Playoffs

Last night, the Patriots lost a must-win game to the Rams; the final score was 24-3 in a night where the offense couldn’t figure it out against a tough Rams defense. Aaron Donald had multiple sacks last night, and almost every time you looked up, he was putting pressure on Cam and forcing him to make mistakes, which he did. It was clear that head coach Sean McVay wanted his revenge on the Patriots after a loss to them in the Super Bowl two years prior. This was a huge game for both teams for different reasons:

The Patriots are hanging on by a thread to their playoff hopes in a stacked AFC. This loss was huge for the Patriots, and even if they win out from here, they need a lot of help to secure that final playoff spot. The Rams, on the other hand, were trying to take sole possession of first place in the NFC West. They could be looking at the 2 or 3 seed and multiple home playoff games if they stay in the form they are currently in, which is a 9-4 record.

The Patriots have struggled on offense virtually all season. In the last two games leading up to this one, Cam Newton has been really struggling in the passing game. Two weeks ago vs the Cardinals, he only threw for 84 yards and still somehow won the game. Last week vs the Chargers, he only threw for 69 yards in a 45-0 blowout win! This has to make one notice how good of a coach the Patriots have and quite possibly, how replaceable Cam is. He does have 11 rushing touchdowns this season, but in a league where the passing game is becoming more and more of a factor, the Patriots seem to be on the outside looking in.

Last night, they finally met their match as they were held to just three points, shut out in the second half, and were not really in the game at any point. A huge mistake made by Cam early in the second quarter made it a 17-0 game, and it was over from there for the most part.

The last three games of the season for the Patriots are all divisional games where coach Belichick has had plenty of success over the years. They play @Miami, vs the Bills, and the Jets to finish off the year. In past years, we would be looking to see which game the Pats could lose out of those three; however, now we are looking to see which game they could win out of those three; times have certainly changed.

The Jets seem like the obvious win for the Pats for two reasons. The first is the game is at home where the Patriots are always tough to beat, and the Jets are actively tanking; we saw vs the Raiders last week. The Pats could barely pull off the win vs the Jets the first time around, so of course, nothing is a guarantee. The Dolphins and Bills have proven to be the better and more consistent teams of the division this season, so the Pats will struggle to pick up wins against them. Even if they do, they need a lot else to happen for them to get in.

For Patriots fans, especially in the northeast area, this is absolutely uncharted territory. The likely reality of this is that the Patriots are going to miss the playoffs for the first time since 2008. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing either.

The first thing they need to address this offseason is who will be the starting QB for 2021. Missing the playoffs allows them to figure out what way they will be getting a new QB. It could be in a trade, it could be the draft position in which they land, or they could land a veteran free agent. Despite all that he has done this year to get back on the right track, Newton may not be the long term solution in New England, which certainly does not mean his career is over. The playoff path for New England is getting smaller and smaller as the weeks go on.