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Bengals vs. Steelers from a Patriots Perspective

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The Patriots may have the 1 seed locked up, but tonight's Bengals-Steelers game still means something to them.

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

It's strange that the least meaningful game for the New England Patriots today is the one in which they actually played, but here we find ourselves.

At this point, the vast majority of the NFL playoff picture is set in stone. As we know, the Patriots are the 1 seed, and with today's win over Oakland, the Broncos are the 2 seed. Indy is locked in at 4, and with Baltimore's win over Cleveland combined with San Diego's loss, the Ravens are locked in at 6. The only thing left to decide is who the Ravens will play on the road next week, and that will all be decided with tonight's matchup between the Bengals and Steelers. The loser travels to Indianapolis to play the Colts, and the winner stays at home as AFC North champions and third overall seed. Pretty straightforward stuff.

From a Patriots standpoint, this game is important in that the winner is the only team left in the playoffs, other than Denver, who 100% cannot come to Foxboro for the divisional game. Thus, it's a matter of who you would potentially prefer to see should the winner of tonight's game secure another victory next week.

There's a case to be had for rooting for either team, as both have struggled at Gillette, but for my money I'd rather play the Bengals than the Steelers should Wild Card Weekend shake out so that's the case. Neither team has had much success in Foxboro, but New England has already demolished Cincy earlier in the year, and plus Pittsburgh's running game and big-play ability gives them a better chance to knock off Denver at Mile High. So I'll be rooting for Pittsburgh tonight.

Mainly, though, I'll be rooting for a hard-fought, grind-em-out matchup that leaves both teams absolutely exhausted.