New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski will miss the remainder of the regular season. Does this clear the way for the Raiders to be the #1 seed in the AFC?
With news that Rob Gronkowski will undergo his third back surgery and be out of action until the AFC Championship game at the earliest, if the Patriots get there, does this clear a path for the Raiders to be the #1 seed in the AFC?
The loss of a player of Gronk’s stature is of course massive. He’s a generational talent and one of the most dominant players at their position in the NFL. But oddly enough, the Patriots actually have a slightly better record without Gronkowski (21-6; .778) than with him (36-11; .766).
But New England averaged six points less per game, putting a significant dent in their margin of victory. So it will still be tough sledding ahead without Gronk.
Let’s take a look at the remaining schedules of both Oakland and New England, as well as some tiebreakers, to see if the Raiders could end up as the top seed in the AFC.
The Raiders have a home game this Sunday against the Bills, a Thursday night game on the road in Kansas City, another road game against the Chargers, head back home to play the Colts, and then finish on the road in Denver.
With Oakland’s record at 9-2, they would finish the season 12-4 if they win three out of the final five. They’ll likely be favored in every game outside of Kansas City, so if they take care of business, their record could end up 13-3. Or who knows, maybe they’ll just run the table.
The combined record of Oakland’s final five opponents is 31-24, a win percentage of .563. That win percentage would rank as 12th best in the NFL.
The Patriots, who will be without Gronkowski for the remainder of the regular season, have two home games up next against the Rams and Ravens, and then they rotate road/home the rest of the away against Denver, the Jets, and the Dolphins.
The combined record of New England’s final five opponents is 27-28, a win percentage of .490. That win percentage would rank as 19th best in the NFL.
One other important thing to note is tiebreakers. With New England also at 9-2, they have a current tiebreaker advantage in conference wins. They are 7-1 against the AFC, while the Raiders are 6-1 against the AFC.
The Raiders play one more game against an AFC opponent than New England does the rest of the way, so Oakland has a chance to equal this tiebreaker. If that happens, and if the Raiders and Patriots finish with the same overall record and the same record against the AFC, the next tiebreaker rule would apply:
Best won-lost-tied percentage in common games, minimum of four.
By season’s end, Oakland and New England will have four common opponents — the Bills, Texans, Ravens and Broncos.
The Raiders have already beat the Texans, Ravens and Broncos, with one more game against Denver to end the season. And they will play this Bills this Sunday.
The Patriots have beat the Texans and Ravens, but are yet to play Denver. Oh, and they lost to the Bills.
So that gives Oakland the current advantage in this tiebreaker. So if everything else is the same, the Raiders would be the #1 seed in the AFC.
The last thing to note here is that Oakland’s final game is at 1:25pm PST on 1/1, against the Broncos. The New England’s final game against Miami is that same day, but at 10:00am PST.
If all things are the same other than common games, the Raiders will know what is at stake heading into Denver.