Somewhat lost in all the quarterback greatness: There isn't a more important game left on the AFC schedule this year for playoff positioning. Here's what's at stake in Sunday's game:
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If the Patriots win
- New England should be considered a favorite for a playoff bye with a win Sunday. Football Outsiders' great playoff odds roster says the Patriots currently have a 35.8 percent chance for a bye. That's actually lower than the Cincinnati Bengals, who have the playoff tiebreaker over the Patriots because they beat them head-to-head.
- A Broncos loss also would raise real questions about Denver's ability to win in a tough road environment after also falling in Indianapolis. It will be fascinating to see if the Broncos' offense looks the same in sub-freezing temperatures. It's hard to imagine the Patriots generating much pass rush, so New England's path to victory is most clear in a shootout.
If the Broncos win
- With a victory, Denver will all but guarantee that the AFC West winner will get the No. 1 seed in the AFC. The Broncos should cruise to homefield advantage if they win the next two weeks. Their final four games are not difficult.
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- The Patriots still should be in great shape to win the AFC East no matter the result. A loss would throw them into a three-team battle for the No. 2 seed with Indianapolis and Cincinnati. The Colts have just three losses, but they have looked wobbly of late. The Bengals look like the better candidate to take the second seed if the Patriots fall.