Who should Pats root for Sunday as AFC playoff race heats up?


The New England Patriots now need some help if they want the AFC's No. 1 seed.

The Patriots currently sit third in the conference after Saturday's loss to the Indianapolis Colts dropped them to 9-5. The Kansas City Chiefs (10-4) own the top spot thanks to their win over the Los Angeles Chargers on Thursday night, but the conference standings could shift significantly based on the results of Sunday's Week 15 games.

The Tennessee Titans (9-4) and Baltimore Ravens (8-5) are very much in the mix for the top seed as well, while the Buffalo Bills (7-6) are still in the AFC East race despite back-to-back losses thanks to the Patriots' defeat.

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How will the results of Sunday's games impact playoff seeding in the AFC? Here's a Patriots fan's viewer's guide to Sunday, complete with which games to watch and who to root for.

Tennessee Titans (9-4) at Pittsburgh Steelers (6-6-1), 1 p.m. ET

Patriots fans should root for... Steelers

The Titans own a tiebreaker over Kansas City, so they would move to the No. 1 seed by beating the Steelers. But New England has the tiebreaker over Tennessee, so a Steelers upset would bump the Patriots up to the No. 2 seed.

The Titans have two relatively challenging games remaining against the San Francisco 49ers and Miami Dolphins, but both are at home, so the Patriots would love to see a Tennessee loss here.

Buffalo Bills (7-6) vs. Carolina Panthers (5-8), 1 p.m. ET

Patriots fans should root for... Panthers


Here's a scary scenario for Patriots fans: If the Bills beat the Panthers and then upset New England in their Week 16 matchup, they'll regain the AFC East lead. (Both teams would be 9-6, with Buffalo owning the head-to-head tiebreaker). The Bills have lost two straight entering Sunday, though, and a loss to Carolina would make it a lot harder for them to win the division regardless of next weekend's outcome.

Denver Broncos (7-6) vs. Cincinnati Bengals (7-6), 4:05 p.m. ET

Patriots fans should root for... Broncos

Neither team is a serious threat to the Patriots (for now) in the playoff race, so this is about which team you'd rather New England face in the postseason. The Bengals have more upside with Joe Burrow at quarterback, so we'll root for the Broncos to earn the final wild card spot.

Baltimore Ravens (8-5) vs. Green Bay Packers (10-3), 4:25 p.m. ET

Patriots fans should root for... Packers

The Patriots still own the tiebreaker over the Ravens, but they'd prefer the Packers to take care of business here against backup QB Tyler Huntley and the Ravens to give them a little breathing room. Even if Baltimore manages the upset, its final three games are against the Bengals, Los Angeles Rams and Steelers. Good luck.