For the New England Patriots, the 13th week of NFL regular season action will not begin until later today: the reigning world champions will visit the Houston Texans to try to improve to 11-1 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 schedule 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.
1:00 pm ET
Go 49ers! The biggest game of the week will be played at 1:00 pm and see two of the hottest teams in all of football go at each other. New England’s rooting interests are rather obvious here: the Ravens are the only team to defeat the Patriots so far this season and only one game behind them in the AFC’s playoff picture. A San Francisco victory is the preferred outcome.
Go Panthers! While the Washington were on the Patriots’ schedule, it seems unlikely that strength of schedule or victory tiebreakers will become relevant when it comes to playoff seeding in the AFC. Patriots fans can therefore root for Carolina to secure a victory and keep Washington ahead of the other AFC East teams when it comes to draft positioning.
Go Dolphins! There are two reasons why Patriots fans should root for the home team to pull off the upset against the Eagles: Philadelphia is a good team despite its 5-6 record that could be a dangerous playoff opponent, while the Dolphins are in the race for the number one overall pick in next year’s draft. A Miami win would help with both problems.
Go Jets! The Bengals are the front-runners to earn the top overall draft pick next year, and a New York win would further help them — thus ensuring that the Dolphins do not come closer to getting the top pick, while also helping the Jets get stuck in draft-day no-man’s land.
Go Titans! From the perspective of playoff seeding, the Patriots don’t have a rooting interest in this game. When it comes to the two teams, however, one is a clear-cut favorite in New England today.
Go good game! Neither the Buccaneers nor the Jaguars have much of an impact on the AFC’s playoff picture, so rooting for a good and injury-free game is the way to go.
Go... Giants? Like Cincinnati, Washington and Miami, New York is also in the race for the number one overall draft pick. A Packers win would therefore help them, but rooting for a team from New York is naturally also hard thing to do.
Go Browns! The Steelers are still very much alive in the race for a wild-card playoff spot, so the Browns — who also are mathematically capable of making the postseason — could play spoilers today. A loss would not eliminate Pittsburgh, of course, but it would make the challenge ahead a much more difficult one.
4:05 pm ET
Go good game! The Rams and Cardinals both play in the NFC West, have virtually no impact on the AFC, and are also currently not in the playoff picture. There’s nothing to root for in this one.
4:25 pm ET
Go Chargers! A Broncos win would definitely help the Dolphins from a draft-positioning perspective. A Chargers win would not necessarily do the opposite, but still keep Denver alive to jump ahead of Miami at a later point.
Go Raiders! The Chiefs are favored to win the AFC West at this point, but a Raiders victory in Kansas City would put enormous pressure on one of the conference’s most talented teams in the upcoming weeks — including a trip to New England next Sunday.