Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Which team makes the most sense to root for from a Patriots standpoint?
I know that it's the Christmas season, and this time of year is when we're all supposed to be thinking about Peace on Earth and Goodwill Towards Men. And I promise, starting next week, that's exactly what I'll be doing; but with this week's slate of games coming up, I'll have no choice but to postpone any and all warm, fuzzy feelings in favor pulling hard for the failure of others.
While the Patriots will certainly have their hands full this Sunday night as the San Francisco 49ers come to town, there is a whole lot happening this week that will likely have serious AFC playoff implications down the road. And since the Pats don't play until Sunday night, I'm free to spend the entire afternoon on Sunday rooting against every team that I need to lose to make sure that New England locks up at least the #2 seed.
Unfortunately, however, it's impossible for everyone I need to lose to drop a game, as two of the Patriots' biggest competitors are squaring off in Sunday's Ravens vs. Broncos showdown. This is one of those games that could alter the landscape of the AFC playoff picture, and regardless of the outcome, New England has to pay close attention.
The question, therefore, is which team should we root for? Is it better from a Patriots standpoint to want a Ravens win, or a Broncos win?
My initial reaction was to root for Baltimore in this one. The Ravens have already lost 4 games on the year and remain a game behind New England in the race for a 1st round bye. Thus, a Baltimore win wouldn't put as much pressure on the Patriots as a Denver win would, and dropping Denver to 10-4 on the year would give the Patriots some breathing room in terms of not having to travel to Mile High at any point this postseason. Plus, given the choice between the two of them, I'm much rather see Peyton Manning fail than Joe Flacco.
However, A Baltimore win would also propel the Ravens to 10-4 as well, which means that there is potential for a three way tie should the unthinkable happen and New England drops Sunday's game to the 49ers. If the Broncos, Ravens, and Patriots all end the season with the same record, then I have absolutely no idea what happens regarding who gets the 2 seed; it would likely depend on how the final few weeks of the season played out. But since the Patriots already beat the Broncos, it might make more sense to pull for a Denver win, as knowing the Broncos are only half a game back from the Patriots might given them some extra motivation to finish the year strong and not let up against the Jags and Dolphins after this tough two game home stretch.
At the end of the day, I'm still pulling for Baltimore; the Ravens represent the last game that the Broncos even have a chance of losing, and the schedule doesn't get any easier for Flacco and company to close out the year. In a perfect world, the Ravens would win on Sunday, and then lose the following week to the Giants and create a high stress, brutal Week 17 matchup against the Bengals with serious playoff implications that forced both teams to play all of their starters for the whole game.
I also don't need Denver getting any byes either, so let's go Ravens.