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Pats owe ... Broncos?!?!

Posted by Albert Breer  November 17, 2009 11:39 AM

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May sound funny now, but if the Patriots eventually cop a first-round bye, they may have their old buddy Josh McDaniels and his Broncos to thank.

At this point, it seems pretty certain you can kiss home-field advantage goodbye. And if not for some weird happenings in Week 1, New England's chances at a first-round bye might be similarly bleak.

The Bengals are 7-2. Had Brandon Stokley not exploded for a miracle, 87-yard touchdown against them at the wire in the opener, lifting Denver to a win, they'd be 8-1. Now look at the rest of Cincinnati's schedule:

    11/22 at Oakland 11/29 Cleveland 12/6 Detroit 12/13 at Minnesota 12/20 at San Diego 12/27 Kansas City 1/3 at Jets

Looks to me like this team's a pretty good bet to finish about 12-4. Now, imagine if the Bengals had avoided that last-minute disaster in Week 1. Suddenly, you might be looking at the Patriots' margin for error being completely gone.

How important is getting a bye? Well, all four of the Patriots' trips to the Super Bowl this decade have been preceded by one. So if they are lucky (and good) enough to have the pieces fall into place in January to get that first weekend off, they may have some people in Denver to thank.

News, analysis and commentary from Boston.com's staff writers and contributors, including Zuri Berry and Erik Frenz.

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