Even with a majority of games yet to be played, Week 15 can already be diagnosed as a disappointment for the New England Patriots. The team, after all, lost its game against the Indianapolis Colts on Saturday to drop to 9-5 on the season and out of the top playoff seed in the AFC.
So, who should Patriots fans root for during Sunday’s slate of games? Let’s find out. Welcome to our Sunday Rooting Guide.
1:00 p.m. ET
Carolina Panthers (5-8) at Buffalo Bills (7-6): Go Panthers! With the Patriots losing in Indianapolis a Panthers win over the Bills would give them a bit more breathing room atop the AFC East. Buffalo dropping to 7-7 would furthermore put the team’s playoff outlook in jeopardy as well — a win/win from New England’s point of view. | FOX
Arizona Cardinals (10-3) at Detroit Lions (1-11-1): Go Cardinals! While this game itself has no direct impact on New England’s postseason outlook, rooting for Arizona is the way to go for one simple reason: the Lions losing yet another game would help them stay ahead in the dubious race for the No. 1 overall draft pick. It is better Detroit gets it than an AFC team. | FOX
Houston Texans (2-11) at Jacksonville Jaguars (2-11): Go Texans! The Patriots have already beaten the Texans, so we know that a Houston win would impact the team’s strength of victory tiebreaker positively. They are obviously favored to beat the lowly Jaguars as well, but you never know. Better to be safe than sorry here. | CBS
New York Jets (3-10) at Miami Dolphins (6-7): Go Jets! The Dolphins are still alive in the playoff race and their Week 18 game against the Patriots might very well turn into a do-or-die contest. A loss against the Jets, however, might help eliminate Miami before its game against New England — possibly making this contest an easier one for the Patriots. Furthermore, a Jets victory might help move them further away from the top first-round draft picks next spring. | CBS
Dallas Cowboys (9-4) at New York Giants (4-9): Go Cowboys! The Patriots may have lost against Dallas in Week 6, but a Cowboys win over the Giants would still have a positive impact on their strength of schedule tiebreaker. It might just become relevant in a tight AFC. | FOX
Tennessee Titans (9-4) at Pittsburgh Steelers (6-6-1): Go Steelers! Two AFC teams going against each other, so rooting for the one with the worse record is the way to go. That is especially true given that New England already owns the head-to-head tiebreaker over Tennessee, and would jump the team in the standings in case it loses. | CBS
4:05 p.m. ET
Cincinnati Bengals (7-6) at Denver Broncos (7-6): Go Broncos! Cincinnati has a solid conference record and might become a threat to the Patriots at one point down the line. A loss in Denver, however, would put some space between New England’s 7-2 and the Bengals’ current 5-3. | CBS
Atlanta Falcons (6-7) at San Francisco 49ers (7-6): Go Falcons! Another game focused on the strength of victory tiebreaker. New England already beat Atlanta, meaning that a Falcons win would be good news for the Patriots. | CBS
4:25 p.m. ET
8:20 p.m. ET
New Orleans Saints (6-7) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (10-3): Go Buccaneers! There is no Patriots-related reason to root for either team in this one. However, the club with Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski in its ranks wins out. | NBC