As the playoffs draw closer, the logjam of teams competing for a post-season berth in the AFC will make for some important football games. As a New England Patriots fan, you aren’t really concerned with actually making the playoffs at this point. A Patriots win over Cleveland at home on Sunday will clinch the AFC East for New England once again. The remaining New England Patriots schedule also isn’t too difficult. Right now, they have a clear shot for the #2 seed and first-round bye, but what opponent will they face after that? The last wild card spot is wide open (with Kansas City being a virtual lock for the other spot), so when it comes to AFC match-ups, there are certain teams you should be rooting for with the end goal of helping the Patriots. Here’s a guide for this week’s games:
#3 Colts (8-4) vs. #4 Bengals (8-4), 1:00 pm:
This game may be the deciding factor in determining the #3 and #4 seeds. Right now Indianapolis has the tie-breaker over Cincinnati and holds the #3 seed because they have a better win percentage in conference games. The winner of this game could end up playing the Patriots in the playoffs, should they finish the season in the #2 spot. If you had to choose between which team you’d rather see come to Foxboro, it’s a toss-up. On one hand, the Bengals defense is still great and compared to Indy’s, it’s miles better. On the other, Andy Dalton has been awful in the post-season and Andrew Luck has led the Colts to beat tough playoff teams this year like the Seahawks and Broncos. Fans could argue in favor of facing either team, but I’d air on the side of the match-up that will make life easier for Tom Brady and the rookie receivers. Root for Indy in this one.
Raiders (4-8) vs. Jets (5-7), 1:00 pm:
This may seem as obvious as rooting for the Patriots this week, you almost never root for the Jets! Even at 5-7 and despite how terribly they’ve played the last few weeks, they are still technically in the hunt for that wild-card spot. Baltimore owns the spot right now at 6-6, so the Jets do have a shot still. I don’t need to convince you on this one, root for the Raiders.
Dolphins (6-6) vs. Steelers (5-7), 1:00 pm:
Again, this may seem obvious since the Dolphins are a division rival. New England travels to Miami next week and it will be a tough game, especially if Miami pulls off a win over the Steelers. They currently are tied with the Ravens for that playoff spot, and if the Ravens lose to Minnesota (you never know), a win over the Steelers would give them that 6-seed. If the Steelers somehow make the playoffs, we’ve already seen that the Patriots are more than capable of shutting them down. Root for Pittsburgh in this game.
Vikings (3-8-1) vs. Ravens (6-6), 1:00 pm:
The Patriots and Ravens have established an amazing rivalry with each other to the point that many Pats fans hate the Ravens like they were a division rival. They have a history of tough play and close game, but the one-sided trash talk is enough to spur the hate. I’m referring, of course, to Terrell Suggs running his mouth off about the Patriots and calling them cheaters after beating them at home in the playoffs to reach the Super Bowl last year. The two play each other again for the first time since then in Baltimore for week 16′s Sunday night game. This is hopefully the only time the two play this year; no one should want to see Baltimore in the playoffs. Root for the Vikings in this one.