Sure it's great to win every game. But sometimes you get a more favorable outcome down the road if you don't. Anyone remember the Colts "Suck for Luck" campaign?
I'm not suggesting the Pats outright tank the game. That's beneath them.
But, I do think there are distinct advantages that come from a loss this week.
1) A Ravens win gets them 1 step closer to a playoff spot. They have CIN in week 17. Wins in weeks 16-17 guarantee the Ravens their division. I want the Ravens to be playing the Broncos in Denver. That will likely happen if they are either the 4th seed (and win the wild-card game) or the 6th seed (and win the wild-card game). The Ravens are the most difficult AFC matchup for the Broncos IMO. If they beat the Broncos in Denver we may yet again see the AFCCG in Foxboro.
2) The Pats could rest some of their key players and those that are b@nged up this week and bring them back for the Buffalo home game. A win in week 17 guarantees the division and I think would still get them the #2 seed. I expect CIN to lose again to Balt in Week 17 and the Colts to lose to KC this week. Also, we always seem to come out of the Ravens game with injuries because it's a hard-hitting defense. Bottom line: If the Pats can't beat a sorry Buffalo team at home in week 17 they have no business in the playoffs anyway.
What's to be gained by winning this week? Sure, the Pats would be closer to locking up #2. I think that will happen anyway (see #2 above).
Would it give them more confidence in the playoffs? Maybe. But like the Giants game at the end of the season in '07 sometimes it's better that you don't "show too much" to an opponent you may well see again in a few weeks. I think the Ravens will get to the playoffs with a loss this week anyway.
Anyway, I know it will never happen, but if I were in charge I'd seriously consider limiting the playing time of all key personnel.