NFL playoff picture: Pats fans should root for these teams Sunday


The New England Patriots are sitting pretty atop the AFC ... for now.

The Patriots enter their bye week as the No. 1 seed in the conference at 9-4. But the Tennessee Titans, Baltimore Ravens and Kansas City all are a half-game behind them at 8-4, while the Los Angeles Chargers, Cincinnati Bengals and Buffalo Bills sit just 1.5 games back at 7-5. (Check out the full standings here.)

The good news for New England: It will remain the No. 1 seed this weekend no matter what thanks to tiebreakers (conference record) over the Titans, Ravens and Chiefs. With the Indianapolis Colts and Bills on their schedule after the bye, though, the Patriots would love to get a little breathing room this Sunday.

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Wondering how they can do that? Here's every Week 14 matchup that impacts the AFC playoff race, and who Patriots fans should want to win. Call it your unofficial viewing guide to Sunday.

Kansas City Chiefs (8-4) vs. Las Vegas Raiders (6-6), 1 p.m. ET

Patriots fans should root for... Raiders

Despite their offensive woes, the Chiefs have won five straight and pose arguably the greatest threat to the Patriots' top seed. They smacked Las Vegas 41-14 just four weeks ago, but the Raiders beat the Chiefs in Kansas City last season. The Chiefs still have the Chargers and Bengals on their schedule, so a loss to Las Vegas would make their road to the No. 1 seed that much more challenging.

Baltimore Ravens (8-4) at Cleveland Browns (6-6), 1 p.m. ET

Patriots fans should root for... Browns


Patriots fans should be flipping between this one and Chiefs-Raiders in the early window. The Ravens have won four in a row against their AFC North rival, but their Week 12 win over Cleveland was a 16-10 squeaker in which Lamar Jackson threw four interceptions. A Browns upset would knock Baltimore a full game back of New England, with the Patriots owning the tiebreaker.

Tennessee Titans (8-4) vs. Jacksonville Jaguars (2-10), 1 p.m. ET

Patriots fans should root for... Jaguars

We won't pretend the Jags have a legitimate chance in this one. But the Titans have lost two in a row, one of which was to the also-2-10 Houston Texans. You can keep your focus on Chiefs-Raiders and Ravens-Browns, but it's worth at least watching the score of this one in case things go sideways.

Los Angeles Chargers (7-5) vs. New York Giants (4-8), 4:05 p.m. ET

Patriots fans should root for... Giants

Tall task here for the Giants, who have scored 13 points or fewer in three straight games and have to keep up with a Chargers team that dropped 41 points on the Bengals last Sunday. There are better games to watch in the late afternoon window, as you'll see below.

Buffalo Bills (7-5) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (9-3), 4:25 p.m. ET

Patriots fans should root for... Bucs

That's right, Patriots fans. You can cheer for Tom Brady with no reservations this weekend. A Bucs win would drop the Bills two full games behind New England in the AFC East with four games remaining. That would make it very difficult for Buffalo to catch the Patriots, even with a win in their Week 16 matchup. So dust off that No. 12 jersey and revel in Brady torching the Bills just like old times.

Cincinnati Bengals (7-5) vs. San Francisco 49ers (6-6), 4:25 p.m. ET

Patriots fans should root for... 49ers

The Bengals desperately need a win here with the Broncos, Ravens, Chiefs and Browns still on their schedule. The 49ers stumbled against the Seattle Seahawks last week but have won four of their last six, and a victory over Cincinnati would put the Bengals in a very tough spot entering the home stretch.