Simulation: Can the Patriots qualify for the playoffs in the next five weeks?

The New England Patriots haven’t missed the playoffs in consecutive seasons since 1999-2000. But this sequence seems very threatened.

Despite a 54-13 rout of the Jets last Sunday, the Patriots are 3-4, with two wins over an ill-fated New York team and a win-from-behind victory over the Houston Texans to a win.

Their schedule isn’t getting any easier, either: Four of their next six matchups are against 2020 playoff teams in the Los Angeles Chargers, Cleveland Browns, Tennessee Titans and Buffalo Bills.

And yet…there are still reasons for optimism.

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New England took the defending Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Dallas Cowboys to a loss and would have beaten the Miami Dolphins in Week 1 had it not been for a Damien Harris fumble .

But have the Patriots ever dug themselves too big a hole? When they visit the Bills in Week 13, will Buffalo have already finished the AFC East? Or will this game have real implications in the division race?

Our partners at Strat-O-Matic Games have simulated the next five New England contests to predict where this team will compete in this Bills game. Patriots fans might be encouraged by the results.

Patriots results, weeks 8-12

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How’s that for a turnaround? A 13-10 upset against the Chargers in Los Angeles sparks a mini-run for New England, which goes from 4-1 in Weeks 8-12 to 7-5.

As the offense falls flat in a 21-0 home loss to the Browns, the Patriots’ defense takes a big step forward, keeping the Chargers, Panthers, Falcons and Titans within 20 points apiece.

The most impressive win came in Week 11, when the Mac Jones-led offense soared for 35 points to defeat Tennessee.

NFL standings through week 12

NFL Ranking Sim Station

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The Patriots are officially back in the hunt.

At 7-5, New England enters Week 13 just 1.5 games behind the Bills in the AFC East with a chance to cut that deficit to 0.5 games on Monday Night Football.

The Pats are also firmly in the Wild Card picture, with a very favorable outcome on the table: If they overtake Cleveland and Pittsburgh to win the No. 5 seed, they’d likely draw the AFC South champion Titans. , which they beat by 16 points in Week 11.

Patriots player stats, weeks 8-12

Patriots Simulation Station Player Stats

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Jones continues his rock-solid game at quarterback, averaging 232.4 yards passing over the five-game span with just two interceptions.

Running back Damien Harris (63.2 yards per game) cools down a bit after back-to-back 100-yard efforts, but takes his touchdown total to nine to 12 games.

Speaking of touchdowns: The drought is finally over for Jakobi Meyers, who is scoring the first touchdowns of his NFL career while striding New England in receptions and receiving yards. Nelson Agholor also shines as a legitimate deep threat, averaging 22.8 yards per catch with a pair of scores.

Look forward

The road to the playoffs still isn’t easy at 7-5, especially with the Bills on the schedule twice in the last five games. But if the Patriots can steal a win from Buffalo, their other remaining opponents are all beaten: the Indianapolis Colts, Jacksonville Jaguars and Dolphins.

Needless to say, this is a very important five-game streak for Bill Belichick’s team.