How the New England Patriots won Week 14 despite not even playing

Matt Judon #9 of the New England Patriots (Photo by Bryan M. Bennett/Getty Images)
Matt Judon #9 of the New England Patriots (Photo by Bryan M. Bennett/Getty Images) /

The New England Patriots got Week 14 off, but still managed to come away as winners despite not even taking the field.

After beating the Buffalo Bills in Week 13, the Patriots were guaranteed to hold onto the top seed in the AFC through Week 14, regardless of the outcomes of the games. And despite a couple of key competitors picking up wins, the Patriots still have the inside track to the number one seed in the AFC with four games left on the season.

The AFC playoff picture currently features the Patriots in the top seed, followed by the Tennessee Titans, Kansas City Chiefs, and Baltimore Ravens. The Los Angeles Chargers, Indianapolis Colts, and Bills are sitting in the three wild card spots. There are still six teams “in the hunt” for a wild card spot with four games left, so nothing is really set in stone. Heck, the Miami Dolphins could technically still win the AFC East despite starting the season 1-7.

Despite all the madness below them, the Patriots control not just the conference at this point, but they also control their own destiny. They have weathered a storm of some quality opponents so far, and while they aren’t out of the woods yet, we can see the light at the end of the tunnel. Some tough matchups still loom ahead, but there’s reason to believe that the New England Patriots might actually finish the season as the number one seed in the AFC.

The New England Patriots have a very good shot to finish the season atop the AFC

The main victory this week for the Patriots was that the Bills were defeated by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, which extended New England’s lead in the AFC East to two games with four left to play. If New England can beat the Colts and Bills over the next two weeks, they will clinch the East. That’s certainly no easy task, but as of right now, it’s looking increasingly likely that the Pats will reclaim their status as the top team in the East.

It may be a bit early, but it feels like the Patriots’ sights need to be set on bigger goals. Despite being the number one seed, fans and pundits alike are skeptical of whether New England has what it takes to hold onto the top spot over their remaining four games. Winning back to back games against the Colts and Bills is going to be tough, and the Chiefs and Titans are lurking right behind the Pats right now.

While some may think the New England Patriots need to win each of their final four games to hold onto the top spot, that probably just isn’t true. Each of the Chiefs, Titans, and Ravens have a much more difficult final slate of games compared to New England, and while Buffalo actually has an easier slate of games, erasing a two game deficit with four games left is easier said then done.

The Patriots finish their season with games against the Colts, Bills, Jacksonville Jaguars, and Dolphins. The Patriots will almost certainly beat Jacksonville, and even winning just one game against either the Colts or Bills would pretty much lock up the East. The Dolphins do loom as a bit of a trap game now to close out the season, but New England is still a better team than them, and will rightfully be favored to win that game too.

The Chiefs right now look to be the biggest threat to the New England Patriots, and for good reason. Their defense hasn’t allowed opponents to score more than 17 points in their last six games, and their offense looks to have finally figured things out after struggling for stretches of the season.

However, their final four games are much more difficult than the Patriots. They will face off against the Chargers in a huge matchup for the AFC West in Week 15, and if Los Angeles ends up winning they would take control of the West for the time being. Kansas City then finishes their season off with tough games against the Cincinnati Bengals, Pittsburgh Steelers, and Denver Broncos.

The Titans also are 9-4, and while they are still in the process of getting healthy, they may not be healthy enough to pick up the top seed in the AFC. They play a pair of tough games against the Steelers and San Francisco 49ers before closing the season out with a pair of easier contests against the Dolphins and the Houston Texans. I’d be willing to bet the Titans will lose at least one game against either the Steelers or 49ers.

And then there are the Ravens, who are really falling apart down the stretch of the season. They have lost a ton of their key players to injuries this season, and they lost another one in Lamar Jackson yesterday against the Cleveland Browns. At this point, the AFC North really looks to be up for grabs.

The Ravens have the toughest remaining schedule of any team New England is concerned about, as they will play the Green Bay Packers, Steelers, Los Angeles Rams, and Bengals to close things out. There’s almost no shot Baltimore would have won all those games even with Jackson healthy, but if he is forced to miss extended time, the Ravens could end up slipping out of the playoffs entirely.

As for the Bills, their toughest remaining game is against the Patriots in Week 16. They play the Carolina Panthers next week before closing things out against the Atlanta Falcons and New York Jets. So it’s safe to say that Week 16 matchup will loom large, especially if New England can’t pull out a win against the Colts.

Next. Brandon Bolden continues to step up for the offense. dark

Whatever way you look at it, New England has the inside track to not only their division, but the AFC conference as a whole. Sure, Kansas City looks good right now, but they are back to square one if the Chargers can manage to pull off an upset on Thursday night. And the Bills have an easy schedule the rest of the way out, but they have been awfully inconsistent this season, and it honestly wouldn’t be surprising to see them drop another game along the way.

Obviously the hope is New England wins the rest of the way out, but that just isn’t realistic. Chances are their win streak will be snapped by either the Colts or Bills over the next two weeks. But the rest of their competition probably won’t win out either, which clears a path to the top spot for the Patriots. So despite not playing in Week 14, it’s clear the New England Patriots still managed to pick up a big victory from the sidelines.