USA TODAY Sports
Taking a look at the Week 17 games that could affect New England's playoff seeding, and whether each game will work out in the Patriots' favor
Greetings from the tropics!
I'm on vacation right now on the beautiful island of Grenada, at the southernmost tip of the Caribbean, famous for its rum, sparkling clean waters, rum, spices, rum, friendly locals, rum, and rum. And while I've always been a beer and whiskey guy myself, I have also always been a big proponent of soaking in the local culture, and thus so far it has been nothing but rum drinks of the most ridiculous kind for yours truly. After all, there are only two occasions in existence where it is perfectly acceptable for a hairy, overweight American man to enjoy an alcoholic beverage with a little umbrella in it, and one of those occasions happens to be "while on a Caribbean vacation." So you can damn well bet I'm drinking a frozen daiquiri right now like a champ.
And I know what you're all thinking: what the hell is a man who is on vacation in Grenada doing writing an article about the New England Patriots right now? Well I wish I had an answer for you, folks, but I don't. The fact that I'm sitting in front of a computer in the hotel business center more concerned about this Sunday's slate of games than I am about the absolutely stunning sunset behind me or the tanning oil glistening off the milk chocolate skin of the local Grenadian beauties on the beach directly to my left speaks more to my unhealthy obsession with the NFL more than any self-deprecating article ever could.
Not to mention what my girlfriend must be thinking right about now. I told her I was going to run to the Men's Room real quick; that was 45 minutes ago.
But I'm here, and this article is getting written, so I may as well make the best of it.
It isn't all that often that the Patriots are still playing a meaningful game in Week 17, but this week's game has the potential for some pretty serious implications. The good news is that the Patriots don't play the Dolphins until 4:25 this week, which means that by the time the two teams take the field, everyone will know, for the most part, whether or not the game will be in any way meaningful in terms of a first round bye. And if New England isn't going to lock up at least a two seed, I would much rather they use Sunday's game to rest their starters and maybe get some of their guys coming off suspensions/injury some in-game reps before resting them for the following week.
And whether or not the Pats lock up a bye this week depends largely on the only two games that really matter from a Patriots perspective - Houston at Indianapolis at 1 PM and Kansas City at Denver at 4:25. One loss from Houston or Denver opens the door for the Pats to lock up a two seed with a win, and losses from both teams give the Patriots the inside track for homefield throughout the playoffs. And while the odds of both Houston and Denver harnessing their inner Alec Shane and bellyflopping into a pool full of young kids are slim, there is definitely a possibility that at least one team will drop a game. Let's take a look at each matchup more closely and break down why each team could lose and win their respective games.
Houston at Indianapolis
Why Houston will lose. History does not favor the Texans at Lucas Oil Stadium, as their franchise has yet to taste the sweet creaminess of victory there. While it's easy to dismiss this stat by virtue of Peyton Manning and the potent offense the Colts enjoyed under his tenure, it's important to remember last season as well, where a woefully incompetent Indianapolis team pulled out a 19-16 win against a pretty damn good Texans team to give Indy their second win of the season and keep the Colts' perfect home record against Houston intact. Who the Colts had a quarterback at that point in the season is anybody's guess, but regardless, Andrew Luck is infinitely more talented than Curtis Painter and Dan Orlovsky combined, and if last year's Colts can win, then this year's definitely can. The Colts are fairly hot right now, and the Texans are slumping. This game has Indy written all over it.
Why Houston will win. This is an important game for The Texans. Not only is a first round bye and homefield advantage on the line, but they desperately need a win this week to regain some confidence and build some momentum heading into the playoffs regardless of their seeding. On the flip side, Indy is locked in as the five seed and don't have much to play for apart from pride and keeping their confidence high. They may very well decide to rest some starters for the following week's road game, and even though Reggie Wayne said that the Colts are too young to mail this game in, at the end of the day the most important thing the Colts can do on Sunday is get healthy and stay healthy. Urgency is bound to play a factor in this game, and the Texans have it in spades, Indy, not so much. There just may be too much at stake for Houston on Sunday for them to drop a game.
Kansas City at Denver
Why Denver will lose. Apart from this being about as big of a trap game as it gets, Kansas City is about to finish what has to be one of the most, if not the most, disappointing and catastrophic seasons in the history of the franchise. The team that was supposed to be a serious contender for the AFC West Crown now sits at 2-13 amid a quarterback controversy, two fan suicides, and the murder-suicide of one of their more promising young linebackers. The Chiefs are on the verge of sweeping, massive changes from the top on down, and simply put absolutely nothing has gone right for this team this year. So how great would it be for them to take out Denver at home, knocking them out of the two seed and at least salvaging something from 2012? What would a win on the road against a white hot Broncos team do for KC's pride?
Why Denver will win. The above paragraph was a really nice thought, but come on - it's the Chiefs. They suck. And Denver doesn't. The only way that the Broncos lose this game is if they pull a Patriots from last week and just plain forget to show up. Or maybe Peyton Manning will make a bet with Eric Decker that he can beat the Chiefs left-handed. Regardless, the only way the Chiefs beat Denver is if somehow Denver beats Denver. The Broncos are the best team in the NFL right now and they are at home against one of the worst. This one should be a cakewalk.