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NFL Week 12 early games: Patriots rooting guide, how to watch, open thread

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Find out who to root for today!

Buffalo Bills v Miami Dolphins Photo by Eric Espada/Getty Images

Week New England Patriots will play their 11th game of the year later today when they take on the Dallas Cowboys in one of the most anticipated matchups of the week. Until the game gets kicked off at 4:25 pm ET, however, there are nine other games on the menu — with some of them being worth keeping a close eye on. Let’s quickly go through the games to find out who will face off today, and who Patriots fans should be rooting for.

1:00 pm ET

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-7) at Atlanta Falcons (3-7): FOX

Go Buccaneers! The NFC South matchups between Tampa Bay and Atlanta has virtually no impact on the Patriots and the AFC playoff race, but there is still a reason why the visitors are the team to root for: the Patriots own the Falcons’ seventh-round draft pick next year, and the team losing its eighth game would help the selection come rather early in the round.

Denver Broncos (3-7) at Buffalo Bills (7-3): CBS

Go Broncos! The Bills still have a theoretical shot at the AFC East title, so seeing them drop another game against the visiting Broncos is the preferred outcome for the Patriots before they take the field against Dallas — just to create some more wiggle room atop the conference.

New York Giants (2-8) at Chicago Bears (4-6): FOX

Go Giants! Another game that has little playoff implications but could have an impact on next year’s draft from New England’s perspective: the Patriots own the Bears’ fourth-rounder next spring, and will therefore root for the Giants.

Pittsburgh Steelers (5-5) at Cincinnati Bengals (0-10): CBS

Go Steelers! Pittsburgh is fighting to stay alive in the wild card race, and a victory over winless Cincinnati would help. From the Bengals’ perspective, meanwhile, a loss would bring them closer to the first overall draft pick next year — ensuring that neither of the Patriots’ division rivals gets it. Speaking of which...

Miami Dolphins (2-8) at Cleveland Browns (4-6): CBS

Go Dolphins! Neither Miami nor Cleveland has much of a chance at making the playoffs, so Patriots fans should root for the visitors to take away the victory just to worsen their draft position next year.

Carolina Panthers (5-5) at New Orleans Saints (8-2): CBS

Go good game! Other than ex-Patriots Kyle Love, Johnson Bademosi and Jason Vander Laan participating in the contest it has little actual ties to New England. Rooting for a good, injury-free game is the way to go.

Oakland Raiders (6-4) at New York Jets (3-7): CBS

Go Raiders! Oakland is very much alive in the race for the AFC West, and a win today would tie the team with the Kansas City Chiefs, who are on a bye and own the head-to-head tiebreaker for now, at 7-4. The Chiefs potentially having to play a road game on wild card weekend would certainly be a welcome sight for the Patriots, so rooting for the Raiders — and against the Jets — is the way to go here.

Seattle Seahawks (8-2) at Philadelphia Eagles (5-5): FOX

Go good game! While the Patriots do own the Seahawks’ seventh-round pick next year, the team is expected to make the playoffs so today’s contest has little draft implications. Rooting for a good game is therefore the call on this one.

Detroit Lions (3-6-1) at Washington Redskins (1-9): FOX

Go Lions! Washington is on its way to earn a top-two draft pick, and the more the team loses, the worse are the Dolphins’ and Jets’ chances at picking that high up in round one next year.

4:05 pm ET

Jacksonville Jaguars (4-6) at Tennessee Titans (5-5): CBS

Go Titans! While the Patriots have no connections to this game — other than former linebacker Mike Vrabel coaching the Titans — rooting for the home team is the way to go, simply as a tool against the Indianapolis Colts in the race for a wild card playoff spot.