New England Patriots fans know their priority is beating the Kansas City Chiefs this week… but what else should they be watching around the NFL as well?
First priority for the New England Patriots every week is always a given: it’s beating whichever team they find themselves facing. This week, that team is the Kansas City Chiefs… a team the Patriots know well.
Sunday’s meeting at Gillette Stadium will be the sixth time in six seasons these two AFC juggernauts have gone head to head. Two of those six meetings came last season, and two of the six came in the playoffs as well. Moral of the story? There’s often a lot on the line when the Chiefs and the Patriots tango these days.
The Chiefs are 8-4, occupy first place in the AFC West, and are looking to avenge last season’s twin defeats to the Patriots while simultaneously improving their postseason positioning for this season. The Patriots are 10-2 and eyeing yet another first-round bye in the playoffs, though their offense needs to find another gear if they hope to advance to their fourth straight Super Bowl.
What other games around the NFL should Patriots fans be paying close attention to? There’s a lot that can affect New England’s position in the playoffs outside of their own game against Kansas City.
Here’s the action you should (and shouldn’t) be following around the league this weekend…
10-2 Baltimore Ravens at 9-3 Buffalo Bills, 1:00 pm EST CBS
Easily the most important game for New England fans outside of Patriots/Chiefs, this matchup pits two of the top teams in the AFC against one another… and there’s so much at stake. If the Ravens lose and the Patriots beat the Chiefs, New England would retake the No. 1 seed from Baltimore by virtue of having a better season record. Of course, for that to happen it would also mean that Buffalo improves to 10-3… which keeps the pressure on the Patriots to win out to clinch the AFC East. More on this game and its extreme importance to New England here.
4-8 Denver Broncos at 8-4 Houston Texans, 1:00 pm EST CBS
The obvious rooting interest here for Patriots fans is with the Denver Broncos. Just as it may seem counterintuitive for New Englanders to cheer on their division rivals in the Buffalo Bills today, Pats fans should also do the unthinkable and cheer for the Denver Broncos down in Texas today as well. A Denver victory over Houston would drop the Texans to 8-5 on the season, increasing the gap between Houston and New England to three games at best, two games at worst, with just three weeks left in the regular season after Sunday’s results.
6-6 Indianapolis Colts at 7-9 Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 1:00 pm EST CBS
If the Texans beat the Broncos and the Colts lose to the Buccaneers today, Indianapolis would officially be eliminated from AFC South contention. The Colts would also drop to 6-7 with a loss, and while that record might still be enough for them to make the No. 6 seed in the AFC if certain factors break right for Indy down the stretch, it’s probably a long shot that the Colts make the postseason this year if they lose today. Honestly it’s a bit of a stretch to think they make the postseason even with a win today, for that matter anyway.
3-9 Miami Dolphins at 4-8 New York Jets, 1:00 pm EST CBS
The Dolphins have already been eliminated from the postseason, but the Jets are technically still alive. New York would need to win out to finish 8-8 and theoretically hope that several other AFC wild card contenders – such as the Titans, Raiders, Steelers, and Colts – lose several games down the stretch. Realistically speaking, Adam Gase’s club is probably thinking about next year already, and as they should be. Both of these teams are finished in 2019.
3-8-1 Detroit Lions at 8-4 Minnesota Vikings, 1:00 pm EST FOX
Matt Patricia’s club has underperformed this season, leading to reports in the media about whether or not his Detroit Lions players have given up on him this year. We shall see. The former New England defensive coordinator has tried to bring some of the hard-nosed tactics and discipline he learned from Bill Belichick to the Motor City, but the results just haven’t translated to the scoreboard or standings yet.
10-2 San Francisco 49ers at 10-2 New Orleans Saints, 1:00 pm EST FOX
Easily the best and most important game in the NFC this week, two teams with identical records go head-to-head down in New Orleans. The 49ers were in the No. 1 spot in the NFC most of this season until the Seattle Seahawks dealt them their first loss on the road in Santa Clara a couple weeks ago. The Saints are the new No. 1 in the NFC now as a result. This game should be a heavyweight fight between two of the best teams in the league.
5-7 Carolina Panthers at 3-9 Atlanta Falcons, 1:00 pm EST FOX
The Falcons have already been eliminated from postseason contention this season, and the Panthers’ hopes for the playoffs are hanging by a thread. While Carolina can’t win the NFC South (New Orleans has already clinched the division), the Panthers could still technically make the postseason if they win out. Curiously, owner Dave Tepper fired head coach Ron Rivera earlier this week though. It will be interesting to see how the team plays for interim coach Perry Fewell today.
3-9 Washington Redskins at 9-3 Green Bay Packers, 1:00 pm EST FOX
Against all odds, the Washington Redskins are somehow still alive this season – not just for a playoff berth, but for the division title. A loss today on the road to the Green Bay Packers would eliminate the ‘Skins from both possibilities though, and the Packers have everything in the world to play for still with the Vikings just a game behind them in the NFC North standings right now.
1-11 Cincinnati Bengals at 5-7 Cleveland Browns, 1:00 pm EST CBS
Both the Bengals and the Browns have been eliminated from AFC North division contention heading into today’s all-Ohio “showdown.” It’s not really a surprise that Cincy has had the disappointing season they’ve had, but Cleveland was a team that many had pegged as a legitimate Super Bowl contender and challenger to the Patriots in the AFC this offseason. Obviously none of that has come to fruition, though the Browns could technically still make the postseason as the No. 6 seed… even with a loss today at home to the Browns.
4-8 Los Angeles Chargers at 4-8 Jacksonville Jaguars, 4:05 pm EST CBS
This is a sneaky-good game on the docket in Week 14. While there probably won’t be too many people watching it around the country (Patriots/Chiefs is kicking off in the same late afternoon time slot), both the Chargers and the Jaguars have everything in the world to play for coming into this game. Both squads are out of contention for their respective division titles, but both are still in contention for a wild card in the AFC. Whichever team loses this game is eliminated from postseason contention though, so both teams should play hard today with so much at stake.
7-5 Tennessee Titans at 6-6 Oakland Raiders, 4:25 pm EST CBS
Another deceptively good game between two teams fighting for the No. 6 seed in the AFC. The Titans are in prime position to move up in their divisional standings if the Broncos upset the Texans and the Colts fall on the road to the Buccaneers today. To move up for a share of the AFC South, however, Tennessee will need to hope that Ryan Tannehill, Derrick Henry, and the Titans offense can score more points than Derek Carr, Josh Jacobs, and the Raiders offense in Oakland.
7-5 Pittsburgh Steelers at 3-8-1 Arizona Cardinals, 4:25 pm EST CBS
Against all early-season expectations and predictions, the Pittsburgh Steelers have maintained their winning ways despite losing franchise quarterback Ben Roethlisberger for the season way back in September. The Steelers first turned to backup QB Mason Rudolph to lead them, but have since benched Rudolph and now are riding third-stringer Devlin “Duck” Hodges. If Pittsburgh wins out, they’ll make the postseason – most likely as the No. 6 seed.
10-2 Seattle Seahawks at 7-5 Los Angeles Rams, 8:20 pm EST NBC
This game looked a lot more appetizing heading into the 2019 season than it looks today. While the Seattle Seahawks are 10-2 and look every bit like Super Bowl 54 contenders, the Los Angeles Rams are an extremely-disappointing 7-5 and could be knocked out of NFC West contention before they even take the field tonight if the 49ers beat the Saints earlier in the day. Even if the 49ers lose, the Rams need to win against the Seahawks or the best they can finish this year is as a wild card… just a season after winning the conference and losing to the Patriots in Super Bowl 53.
2-10 New York Giants at 5-7 Philadelphia Eagles, 8:15 pm EST ESPN
One of the worst Monday Night Football games in recent memory as far as hype going into the game and timing on the calendar (it’s December), ESPN is probably doing everything they can to try and drum up some excitement for what could be an NFC East snoozefest. The Eagles technically control their own destiny and could still somehow win the division if they win out the rest of the season. The Giants are already eyeing next season – and must come to grips with what their plans are for longtime QB Eli Manning this upcoming offseason as well.