4. New England wants New York to beat the Texans on Saturday.
Crazy as it sounds, Patriots fans might find themselves cheering on one of their most bitter rivals in Saturday’s early game between the New York Jets and visiting Houston Texans. Normally, no self-respecting chowderhead would ever be caught dead rooting for the Jets, but this is a rare exception.
The Patriots and Texans are currently tied with matching 9-4 records. If the season ended today, the Patriots would claim the No. 2 seed in the playoffs and a first-round bye, by virtue of winning their head-to-head matchup in the season opener.
Unfortunately for New England, the season doesn’t end today – three games remain, and that first one against the Steelers in Heinz Field looms large as a potential stumbling block. Should the Pats falter and drop a second straight game, it opens up the door for Houston to spring ahead of them in the conference standings.
Simple math tells us there’s a world of difference between the No. 2 and No. 3 seeds in the NFL playoffs. Earn the No. 2, and you need to win just three more games to hoist a Lombardi trophy. Earn the No. 3, and that number increases to four games.
There’s still a lot of football left to be played between now and 2019, and as the old saying goes, “any given Sunday” any team in the NFL can beat any other team. Make no mistake: New England needs to beat Pittsburgh on Sunday, for the sake of the standings, but also just to rinse out the bad taste of that freakish loss in Miami. If New York upsets Houston the day before, though, it gives the Pats more margin for error, as they’d know in the back of their minds that even with a loss to the Steelers they’d still control the No. 2 seed.