There's Still a Lot of Season Left, but Tonight's MNF Matchup Has Massive Implications for the AFC Playoff Picture
I loathe the Baltimore Ravens; they ruined my 2012 Christmas by beating the Patriots in the AFC Championship Game, which rendered my gift useless and a terrible memory (Bernard Pollard should be in JAIL). Still, as an unbiased football guy, I have zero issues with them going for two yesterday. As a former offensive lineman, I love the call. In that spot, with Lamar Jackson, I love trusting your offense and going for the death blow to your most hated rival right there, especially with the loss of Marlon Humphrey.
I get the other side of it too. Big Ben is a corpse; take your chances in OT. It didn't work out; Lamar Jackson made an awful throw in a spot where he needed touch (shocker), and the Ravens lost.
With the Ravens loss, the New England Patriots are the #1 seed in the American Football Conference for the time being.
It's an undeniable fact. The New England Patriots currently sit in the AFC's driver seat, but it doesn't really mean much more than a "wow, the rookie QB led Patriots are in first." It's just a nice little detail going into tonight's MNF football matchup against the Buffalo Bills, which has massive seeding implications.
A Patriots win, and they maintain the #1 seed and control their own destiny with four games remaining thanks to three of their four losses coming to NFC opponents. Buffalo would drop all the way to the #7 seed.
BUT should the Buffalo Bills beat the New England Patriots (something they've only done five times since 2004, and one of those wins was a meaningless Week 17 game where the Patriots benched their starters [I was there]. Another was against Jacoby Brissett, congrats!), the Titans would be in the pole position, with the Bills #2. The Patriots would drop down to 5th and face the two-time defending AFC champion Kansas City Chiefs in the 4-5 game. Luckily, should that happen, the season doesn't end today.
The winner of this game is clearly in the AFC East driver seat. If the Pats win tonight, they don't clinch a playoff spot, but they pretty much clinch a playoff spot.
Tonight might be just one game, and sure these teams are set to play again in 20 days, but what a blow this would be to Buffalo's morale. It's a way bigger game for them IMO. They're supposed to be here. In year one, with no Brady, they sweep the Pats for the first time since 1999, go to the AFC Championship Game, and think the division goes through western New York for the foreseeable future. Then the Patriots draft Mac Jones, spend more money than any team in the history of free agency and you've got to worry about the greatest organization in the league again. I feel for the people of Buffalo. Did their Super Bowl window already close?
There's no denying the implications for the Patriots. If they want to have any chance at the only first-round bye, they have to win this game, but they're also sort of playing with house money. It's only year one of the Mac Jones era. They're clearly building something, but a the same time you have to capitalize on these opportunities, you never know when your window could slam shut. Aaron Rodgers and Russell Wilson both "only" have one Super Bowl Ring. No rookie QB has ever made the Super Bowl, forget win it, BUT no home team had ever hosted a Super Bowl until last season. There's a first time for everything and I love the rookie who happens to have the best coach post AFL-NFL merger chances.
Sure, I picked the Patriots to win the Super Bowl back in September, but that was because I'm a narrative guy. They can still win it all without winning tonight, but it'll be a hell of a lot easier if they take care of business in Buffalo. The AFC is wide open this season, and the lone bye will be a sizable advantage; if the Patriots want it, they have to win tonight. I cannot wait for this game. Pats ML all day.
It's NFL Playoff Machine season. You can play out all the possibly scenarios of the stretch run right HERE.