We all know the Patriots' last three losses, especially the 24-21 defeat at Buffalo, led to unprecedented times in New England with Bill Belichick as coach.
The Patriots now are just 2-5 and still 3.5 games behind the Bills in the AFC East.
It would seem that the postseason is a bit of a pipe dream. FootballOutsiders.com has the Patriots with an 8.8 percent chance of making the playoffs. 538.com has them at 12 percent.
Of course, those are pure numbers derived from what has happened. As we all know, football is played by humans and what is past is not always prologue when it comes to the NFL. Teams can get hot. Teams can improve. Others can choke. Anything can happen.
Does that include the Patriots winning the AFC East — the most likely path to the postseason (if the field isn't expanded to eight teams in each conference due to Covid)?
Perhaps. It's not quite as big a longshot as you might think for this very reason: the Patriots have the 24th-hardest schedule the rest of the way; the Bills have the sixth most difficult slate.
We went through the rest of the schedule for the rest of the NFL with our best guesses, and the AFC East could be decided by the narrowest of margins between the Patriots, Bills and the Dolphins. Of course, the head-to-head games will loom large — the Patriots have to beat the Bills in the Week 16 rematch and win the rest of the division games — but this could very well come down to another huge yet underrated factor: