New England Patriots fans should be rooting for Tom Brady and his Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday when they host the Buffalo Bills in one of the best games on the Week 14 NFL schedule.
The Bills are preparing to play the 9-3 Bucs on a short week after losing at home to the Patriots in Monday's night's AFC East showdown. The defeat dropped the Bills 1.5 games behind the Patriots for the division lead -- a margin that will grow to two games if Brady beats Buffalo.
If the Bills do lose Sunday, they would need to beat the Patriots in their Week 16 matchup at Gillette Stadium and have New England lose at least one more game at some point.
Here's how the outcome of Bills-Bucs will impact the Patriots' chances of reaching the playoffs, winning the division and securing the No. 1 seed in the AFC, per FiveThirtyEight's predictive model.
|Patriots' Odds||Make Playoffs||Win Division||Secure No. 1 seed|
|If Bills win||98%||65%||40% (highest in AFC)|
|If Bucs win||98%||81%||47% (highest in AFC)|
A 15 percent jump in the odds of winning the division isn't insignificant. Essentially, a Bills loss to the Bucs would make the Patriots' road to an AFC East title much easier. They'd have to really falter down the stretch to blow that advantage.
Luckily for the Patriots, there's a pretty good chance the Bucs help them out and beat the Bills.
For starters, Brady has owned the Bills throughout his career. He has a 32-3 record with 70 touchdown passes and 25 interceptions in his career versus Buffalo. The Buccaneers also are undefeated (5-0) at home this season.
Tampa Bay has plenty to play for over the final month of the season. The Bucs are in a tight race for the NFC's No. 1 seed with the Arizona Cardinals and Green Bay Packers. Tampa Bay is a game behind Arizona and tied with Green Bay, although the Packers currently have the advantage via the conference record tiebreaker.
Even though the Patriots are off Sunday enjoying their bye week, there are plenty of games that will impact their standing in the AFC playoff picture. None of them will have a greater impact than Bills-Bucs.