With the New England Patriots already beating the Buffalo Bills on Saturday to lock up the AFC East title, the team and its fans can enjoy a relaxed Sunday — one that has 12 games on its menu, including some that will have a major impact on the playoff picture in both conferences one way or the other. With that being said, what are today’s games? And who should Patriots fans root for? Let’s find out.
1:00 pm ET
Jacksonville Jaguars (5-9) at Atlanta Falcons (5-9): FOX
Go Jaguars! While the game itself does not have any meaning for the AFC’s playoff race, it will impact a Patriots draft pick next year: the team holds the Falcons’ seventh-round selection, and a Jaguars win will help position it rather early in the round.
Baltimore Ravens (12-2) at Cleveland Browns (6-8): CBS
Go Browns! While the Ravens have the inside lane for the number one seed in the AFC, there is still a theoretical chance that the Patriots pass them over the last two weeks of the regular season. For that to happen, Baltimore would need to lose both its games so rooting for Cleveland today is a no-brainer — if only so that the Ravens cannot rest their starters in Week 17.
Carolina Panthers (5-9) at Indianapolis Colts (6-8): FOX
Go Colts! Another game with virtually no impact on the playoff picture should see Patriots fans root for Indianapolis, not just because Jacoby Brissett and Brian Hoyer play for the team: the Colts winning would also hurt their draft position next year.
Cincinnati Bengals (1-13) at Miami Dolphins (3-11): CBS
Go Dolphins! Speaking of draft position, a Miami victory would end the team’s chances of getting the first overall pick next year. This has to be the preferred outcome from New England’s perspective, so rooting for Brian Flores and his boys is the way to go in this one.
Pittsburgh Steelers (8-6) at New York Jets (5-9): CBS
Go Jets! New York winning today has two positive effects from the Patriots’ point of view: the team would worsen its draft position on day one, while simultaneously hurting the Steelers’ chances at earning a wild card spot in the postseason.
New Orleans Saints (11-3) at Tennessee Titans (8-6): FOX
Go Titans! The Titans and Steelers are both competing for the final playoff spot in the AFC, and rooting for ex-Patriot Mike Vrabel over Pittsburgh is not a hard thing to do — even though the odds are against Tennessee.
New York Giants (3-11) at Washington Redskins (3-11): FOX
Go Giants! There are two reasons why New England should root for New York today: Giants left tackle and former Patriot Nate Solder is one of the nicest guys in the business, and a win might push the club out of the top three in next year’s draft. Win-win.
4:05 pm ET
Detroit Lions (3-10-1) at Denver Broncos (5-9): CBS
Go Broncos! Normally, rooting for the club full of ex-Patriots is the way to go, but them losing is actually the better scenario here: another defeat for Matt Patricia and company would help them draft highly in round one next year, and possibly ahead of the Dolphins and Jets.
Oakland Raiders (6-8) at Los Angeles Chargers (5-9): CBS
Go Raiders! While the Raiders are theoretically still alive in the AFC, the reason to root for them in this game is that a Chargers loss could be costly for the Jets — and maybe even Dolphins — when it comes to draft positioning.
4:25 pm ET
Dallas Cowboys (7-7) at Philadelphia Eagles (7-7): FOX
Go Cowboys? The race for the NFC East title comes down to this, and it really does not matter from the Patriots’ perspective who wins — they have beaten both teams already this year, and neither is expected to make much noise in a deep NFC postseason field. So how about rooting for the team that did not win a Super Bowl against New England once?
Arizona Cardinals (4-9-1) at Seattle Seahawks (11-3): FOX
Go Seahawks! Another rooting interest based primarily on draft positioning: Arizona loosing could simultaneously also hurt the Jets and Dolphins.
8:20 pm ET
Kansas City Chiefs (10-4) at Chicago Bears (7-7): NBC
Go Bears! This one is pretty-straight forwards as well: if Chicago wins, the Patriots will have a first-round bye in the playoffs no matter what happens next week. New England should therefore collectively root against Kansas City in primetime today.