FOXBOROUGH – Not only do the New England Patriots currently hold a playoff spot, but they also control their destiny heading into the final week of the regular season.
The Patriots knocked off the Miami Dolphins on Sunday, winning 23-21 to improve to 8-8 on the season, thanks in part to Teddy Bridgewater's injury. With the win, the Patriots overtook the Dolphins for the final wild-card spot in the AFC playoff picture.
While the Patriots control their own destiny, they're in a near must-win situation in order to reach the playoffs – and they have to beat an opponent they've struggled against in order to do so. They face the Bills in Buffalo on Sunday, taking on a team they've lost to in five of their last six meetings. Their only win against the Bills during that stretch came in a windstorm in Week 14 of last season, in which Mac Jones threw just three passes. They've been dominated in their last three games against the Bills as they didn't force them to punt in two of those matchups and decisively lost to them 24-10 in December.
— New England Patriots (@Patriots) January 1, 2023
There is still a path for the Patriots to make the playoffs if they lose, but it's a narrow path. They would need the New York Jets to lose to the Seattle Seahawks Sunday and beat the Dolphins next week. Plus, the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Las Vegas Raiders would each have to lose one of their last two games and the Jacksonville Jaguars would need to beat the Tennessee Titans in Week 18. So yeah, the Patriots are better off just winning.
New England can't win the division as Buffalo has already locked that up. If the Patriots make the playoffs, they wouldn't be able to get a seed higher than the seventh. They would face either the Bills, Cincinnati Bengals, or the Kansas City Chiefs on the road on Super Wild Card weekend.