For the New England Patriots, the ninth week of NFL action will not begin until later today: the reigning world champions will visit the Baltimore Ravens to try to improve to 9-0 on the year on Sunday Night Football. This means that the early portion of games will be a stressless affair for the team and its fans. All in all, there are 11 games on the menu today before New England’s primetime contest gets kicked off.
Let’s therefore quickly go through the contests to find out who will face off today, and who Patriots fans should be rooting for.
9:30 am ET
Go Jaguars! While the Texans are on New England’s schedule and would improve its strength (as well as possibly the strength of victory tiebreaker), rooting for Jacksonville is the way to go here to give the Patriots more cushion in the race for the AFC’s top seed.
1:00 pm ET
Go Redskins! The Bills are still in the race for the AFC East title, and while anything but New England winning would be a major surprise a Washington victory is certainly preferred to create more space between the two clubs.
Go Titans! The game itself has little actual bearing on the AFC’s playoff race and the Patriots’ spot in it, so rooting for former New England linebacker and current Tennessee head coach Mike Vrabel is a solid choice.
Go Vikings! Despite being expected to miss Patrick Mahomes for another game, the Chiefs are still a formidable threat in the AFC. The Vikings winning on the road and creating more space between Kansas City and New England is the best-case scenario for this game.
Go Dolphins! Both New York and Miami is in the race for the first overall draft pick, but a Dolphins victory would certainly be the preferred outcome: the 0-8 Cincinnati Bengals, who are on their bye week, would be the beneficiary of a Dolphins win.
Go Eagles! New England owns the Bears’ fourth-round draft choice next year, so a Philadelphia victory would help this pick come rather early next April. Other than that, however, there is little reason to actually root for Philadelphia.
Go Steelers! Not only has New England already defeated Pittsburgh this year and could see its strength of schedule and victory improve, a Steelers win would also create more space between the Patriots and the Colts in the race for playoff seeding.
4:05 pm ET
Go Lions! While the contest has essentially no impact on New England and the AFC’s playoff field, rooting for ex-Patriots defensive coordinator Matt Patricia and players such as Trey Flowers and Danny Amendola is a good way to tackle this contest.
Go Buccaneers! There is only one reason to root for one team over the other here, and it is draft pick positioning in 2020: the Patriots own Seattle’s seventh-round selection because of the Jacob Hollister trade, and a Tampa Bay win would possibly improve the position of the pick in the unlikely scenario that the Seahawks miss the postseason.
4:25 pm ET
Go Browns! New England has defeated Cleveland already this year, and would see its strength of schedule or strength of victory improve in case a tiebreaker versus the Colts — the lone AFC top team not on the Patriots’ schedule this year — would be needed in the postseason race.
Go good game! The game between Green Bay and L.A. also has virtually no impact on the AFC’s playoff picture. Rooting for a good, injury-free game is the way to go.