If you’re watching at home and need a distraction while CBS airs another one of those goofy “Merry Christmas from everyone at our crappy TV shows” commercials, here’s a quick guide to the six games with the most ramifications for the Patriots:
1. Tennessee Titans at Indianapolis Colts, 1p.m.: The Colts have won 20 straight games, and today they can match the Patriots’ all-time record. With one more victory, their would-be sixth straight, the amazing Titans will catapult themselves into full-fledged playoff contention. If the Colts lose, it will keep alive – in a strictly mathematical sense – a chance for the Patriots to take the first seed in the AFC playoffs.
2. Houston Texans at Jacksonville Jaguars, 1 p.m.: We should find out today if the Jaguars belong with the wheat or the chaff. They’d be a playoff team if the postseason started today. They can just about eliminate the Texans with a win and affirm their own contention. If Jacksonville wins, their 6-2 conference record would trail only the Colts.
3. Detroit Lions at Cincinnati Bengals, 1 p.m.: As it stands right now, the Bengals would take the second seed in the AFC playoffs. The Patriots could use a Bengals loss, but this week probably won’t deliver. The Lions are playing on nine days of rest, but they’ve also lost 31 of their past 34 games.
4. San Diego Chargers at Cleveland Browns, 1 p.m.: See above. The Patriots are vying with the Chargers for the second seed, but don’t expect them have much trouble today.
5. Oakland Raiders at Pittsburgh Steelers, 1 p.m.: The Steelers throttled the Patriots at Gillette Stadium last regular season on their way to winning the Super Bowl. A win today – and it should be an easy win – would bolster their playoff chances for this season and potentially put them on course to face the Patriots in the postseason.
6. Denver Broncos at Kansas City Chiefs, 4 p.m. The 7-4 Broncos have a rough history at Arrowhead Stadium so this isn’t the gimme it might seem like at first glance. If the Chiefs pulled the upset, it could help the Patriots separate from Denver in the standings.