How Week 13 game vs. Bills impacts Patriots' chances of making playoffs

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How Week 13 game vs. Bills impacts Patriots' chances of making playoffs originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

Week 12 of the NFL season was not a good couple of days for the New England Patriots on several levels.

For starters, the Patriots defense and special teams did not play well and cost the team in a 33-26 loss to the Minnesota Vikings on Thanksgiving.

Not only did the Patriots lose and fall to 6-5, pretty much every other team around them in the AFC playoff race won, including the Buffalo Bills, New York Jets, Miami Dolphins, Cincinnati Bengals and Los Angeles Chargers.

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These results dropped the Patriots from the No. 6 seed and second wild card spot to eighth place and outside the playoff picture.

  1. Kansas City Chiefs, 9-2 (AFC West leader)

  2. Miami Dolphins, 8-3 (AFC East leader)

  3. Baltimore Ravens, 7-4 (AFC North leader)

  4. Tennessee Titans, 7-4 (AFC South leader)

  5. Buffalo Bills, 8-3 (First Wild Card)

  6. Cincinnati Bengals, 7-4 (Second Wild Card)

  7. New York Jets, 7-4 (Third Wild Card)

  8. New England Patriots, 6-5

  9. Los Angeles Chargers, 6-5

New England's schedule doesn't get any easier in Week 13 when it hosts the 8-3 Bills at Gillette Stadium on "Thursday Night Football". The Bills have won the last two games versus the Patriots by a combined score of 80-38 and didn't punt a single time in either matchup.

The Patriots currently have a 36 percent chance of reaching the postseason, per FiveThirtyEight. How important is this week's game in regards to their chances of making the playoffs?

Here's what FiveThirtyEight's predictive model says based on the three possible outcomes Thursday night:

The difference between 55 percent and 23 percent is pretty massive.

After hosting the Bills, the Patriots will go out west and play road games versus the 4-7 Las Vegas Raiders and 4-8 Arizona Cardinals. These are the most winnable games remaining on New England's schedule. The Patriots finish the regular season at home versus the Bengals, at home versus the Dolphins, and at the Bills, in that order. It's a brutally tough three-game stretch.

Even if the Patriots beat both the Raiders and Cardinals, that would get them to just eight wins, which almost certainly won't be enough to qualify for a wild card spot. Whether the Patriots can earn one victory from the two remaining games versus the Bills could determine if they make or miss the playoffs.

It would behoove the Patriots to secure that victory this Thursday as opposed to the Week 18 finale.