The Patriots shouldn't worry about the playoffs. They shouldn't be looking beyond Monday Night. However, that doesn't mean that we can't look at the big picture and come up with a list of teams we can root for until Monday! Let's take a glance:
1:00 PM EST Games
Jacksonville Jaguars at Tennessee Titans - The Jaguars are tied for first place of the AFC South with the Colts, but they have the tie breaker. Yes, for the sake of the Patriots-Colts rivalry, everyone should want the Colts to make the playoffs. However, if the Patriots want to make the Super Bowl, they do not want to go to Indianapolis at the Oil Drum for the playoffs. The Patriots don't know if they'll win on Monday, which means that they don't know if they'll be on track for the #1 seed or the #5 seed. If they grab the #5 spot, they'll most likely have to go to the AFC South division winner in the wild card game. Who would you rather the Patriots face? The Jaguars or the Colts? I'll take the Jaguars. And if the Patriots are going to Jacksonville for the playoffs, that means that the Colts and the Patriots finished #2 in their divisions, continuing the rivalry next season.
Root For: Jaguars
Denver Broncos at Kansas City Chiefs - Patriots West vs Patriots West. Both teams have heavy doses of Patriots influence- but who should we be rooting for? I'm going with Kansas City. I think we want the Chiefs to keep winning and make the playoffs. Not out of spite for the Broncos, but because I'd rather the Chiefs in the playoffs instead of the Chargers. The Chargers always seem to falter in the playoffs, but this has been an odd season for trend busting. I don't think any team wants to face a hot Chargers team in the playoffs. If the Chiefs keep winning, they'll box out the Chargers for the AFC West crown.
Root For: Chiefs
Cleveland Browns at Miami Dolphins - Root for Mangini? Really? Yeah. Think of the first round pick. The Browns have a worse record than the Raiders. Therefore, we want the Browns to win in order to push the Raiders pick closer to the top. Also, the Dolphins are 3.5 games behind the Patriots and Jets in the AFC East, because of tiebreakers, with 5 games to go, meaning there's a very small chance that they make up ground and make the playoffs. Look at their schedule: Browns, Jets, Bills, Lions, Patriots. They can win three of those games (Browns, Bills, Lions). We want them to win a fourth (Jets). They're not going to catch up with the Patriots. I'm fine with that. Let's focus on the draft pick instead of divisional strength.
Root For: Browns
Buffalo Bills at Minnesota Vikings - Oh dear, the Bills. It's a little brother that just can't get it right- but they're so close! With a draft pick's position on the line, the Patriots should be rooting for the Bills. If the Bills win, the Patriots' 3rd round draft pick could be top 5 in the round. If the Vikings win, that pick could drop to the middle of the round. That's a pretty big swing. Also, how can you not root for the scrappy Bills? They've played with plenty of heart and are a couple bad breaks away from being considered an average team.
Root For: Bills
Late games after the jump!
4:00 PM EST Games
Oakland Raiders at San Diego Chargers - Double Whammy. A first round draft pick on the line, the Patriots want the Raiders to lose. Playoff implications on the line, the Patriots want the Chargers to lose. Which should take precedence? Let's root for the Chargers. I'd rather take a higher first round draft pick and a potential cornerstone for this team's future over worrying about the Chargers. The Patriots have beaten them before and should beat them again.
Root For: Chargers
Carolina Panthers at Seattle Seahawks - As much as I want the Rams to make the playoffs as division winner, we want the Seahawks to win. As long as the Panther's pick stays at the top of the second round, the Patriots will have fantastic value- and they could end up with two picks in a row with a Super Bowl victory. It's an easy choice in this match-up.
Root For: Seahawks
Dallas Cowboys at Indianapolis Colts - A surging Cowboys team against a faltering Colts team. As much as I love the Patriots-Colts rivalry, as I've said before, I don't want the Patriots to potentially go to the RCA to face the Colts. Manning doesn't have the offensive support to win games anymore and their defense definitely isn't helping. The Cowboys have a lethal offense and a defense that needs to step up. Also, if Dallas keeps winning, they could pass the Raiders and increase that pick value- they could also pass the Vikings and increase that pick value.
Root For: Cowboys
8:00 PM EST Game
Pittsburgh Steelers at Baltimore Ravens - This is the undercard for the Jets vs Patriots headliner on Monday. These are the next best two teams in the AFC and they have their own division on the line. Who would the Patriots rather face? If I were the Patriots, I'd rather potentially travel to Pittsburgh in the playoffs and extend the possible chances that the Ravens lose in the playoffs on the road. The Patriots own the Steelers and the Ravens give them fits.
Root For: Steelers
New Orleans Saints at Cincinnati Bengals - Root for Bengals for draft pick value.
Chicago Bears at Detroit Lions - Root for Lions for draft pick value and to slow Bears momentum.
San Francisco 49ers at Green Bay Packers - Root for 49ers for draft pick value and to slow Packers momentum.
Washington Redskins at New York Giants - Root for Redskins for draft pick value.
Atlanta Falcons at Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Root for Buccaneers to slow Falcons momentum and possibly have the Buccaneers make the playoffs over a more threatening NFC team.
St. Louis Rams at Arizona Cardinals - Root for Cardinals for draft pick value.