Patriots' Rooting Guide for NFL Playoff Implications of Week 9
At 4-4 through the first eight weeks of the season, the New England Patriots find themselves on the playoff bubble.
According to FiveThirtyEight, the Patriots have a 45 percent chance to make the playoffs. There's obviously a lot that can change and the No. 1 thing the Pats have to worry about is winning games and making the playoffs will likely take care of itself.
Still, it isn't too early to start looking at the standings and see where the Patriots might get some help.
Weeks 8-10 can be crucial for franchises as there are several clubs hovering around .500. A bad stretch here can put teams behind the eight-ball in terms of building towards a playoff run.
So the most important game on the slate for the Patriots is their road trip to Carolina. Fans should have a rooting interest in these games as well, though.
Broncos at Cowboys (1 P.M. ET)
As the wild card race begins to form the Patriots should be hoping for a few teams to fall out of the race quickly and begin looking to next year. One team that could be on that precipice is the Denver Broncos.
The Broncos were sellers at the trade deadline, sending Von Miller to Los Angeles in exchange for two Day 2 picks. However, they are within striking distance of staying in the playoff picture at 3-4 on the season. With the extra wild card slot, they may feel like they have a chance to compete.
That glimmer of hope could shine much brighter if the Broncos are able to pull off an upset in Dallas. The Cowboys have been one of the best teams in the NFC this season and are expected to get quarterback Dak Prescott back in the lineup.
A win for the Cowboys has no effect on the Pats since they are in the NFC. A loss for the Broncos makes the chasm between the two teams even wider and essentially puts them on the back-burner until further notice.
With Prescott back in the lineup and Miller out of Denver's, this seems like a fairly safe bet.
Rooting interest: Cowboys
Chargers at Eagles (4:05 P.M. ET)
The Patriots' win over the Chargers last week was a boost to their playoff chances not only because it improved their record but also made the Chargers easier to catch. If the season ended today the Chargers would be the final team to get in and sit just a half-game ahead of the Patriots.
The matchup here is interesting because the Chargers' greatest weakness is something the Eagles have just blatantly ignored and that's the run game.
The Chargers are giving up a league-worst 5.1 yards per carry. The Eagles running backs are averaging around 15 carries per game. Part of that is because quarterback Jalen Hurts runs the ball quite a bit but a lot of it just the way Nick Sirianni is running the offense.
If the Eagles commit to the ground game they could pull off the upset at home and the Patriots would jump into the playoff picture with a win over Carolina.
Rooting interest: Eagles
Bears at Steelers (Monday Night Football, 8:15 P.M. ET)
Monday Night Football is always a little better when there are some stakes involved. Seeing another team that is just a half-game ahead of New England drop a game they should win on primetime should provide those stakes.
By virtue of their win against the Cleveland Browns last week, the Steelers go into their Monday Night Football matchup at 4-3. It marked their third consecutive win after dropping three games in a row.
The chances of getting this one to go the Patriots' way are slim. The lone hope is that the Bears' offense has been abysmal this season but showed some signs of life as Justin Fields had the best game of his young career against the Niners.
He completed 70 percent of his passes and added 100 yards on the ground. If he pulls together a similar performance against the Steelers' tough defense, they will have a fighting chance.
Rooting interest: Bears