The New England Patriots are a longshot to make the NFL playoffs this season, but there is still hope entering Saturday afternoon's pivotal Week 16 game against the Cincinnati Bengals.
If the Patriots beat the AFC North-leading Bengals at Gillette Stadium, and then win their final two games versus the Miami Dolphins (at home) and Buffalo Bills (on the road), they will secure a wild card spot.
Basically, New England still controls its own destiny in the AFC playoff race.
Stay in the game with the latest updates on your beloved Boston sports teams! Sign up here for our All Access Daily newsletter.
How will the outcome of Saturday's matchup impact the Patriots' chances of reaching the postseason? Here's what FiveThirtyEight's predictive model says:
The Patriots currently have a 19 percent chance to make the playoffs, per FiveThirtyEight.
New England Patriots
A loss to the Bengals would drop those odds to just eight percent. Even though the Patriots cannot be mathematically eliminated from playoff contention this weekend, losing to the Bengals would pretty much seal their fate.
The Bengals have been playing fantastic of late and recently passed the Baltimore Ravens atop the AFC North. Cincinnati overcame a 17-point deficit last Sunday to beat Tom Brady's Tampa Bay Buccaneers and extend its win streak to six games (second-highest active streak in the league). The Bengals clinch a playoff berth if they beat or tie the Patriots, and they are in the drivers' seat for the division title. Therefore, we should expect a motivated Bengals squad in Foxboro on Christmas Eve.
The Patriots have a three-game win streak versus the Bengals and have won seven of the last eight meetings, but they've never played against a Cincy team led by star quarterback Joe Burrow.