BOSTON -- For most of the NFL, Week 14 awaits. For the Patriots, it's over. That's just about the only benefit of having the short week.
And with the Patriots winning 21-18 on Thursday night in Pittsburgh, it opens up the weekend for any New England football fans to do whatever they please on Sunday. While those options are endless ... it's very likely that most people settle on simply watching football.
With that in mind, here's a look around the league at some games that impact the Patriots in some way.
Carolina at New Orleans, Sunday 1 p.m.
The Patriots probably needed to end their season on a 10-game losing skid in order to "catch" the Panthers for the worst record in the NFL. Nevertheless, if the Panthers go on some type of run to end the year, you never know how it will all shake out. Remember, the Panthers have no incentive to lose, as the Bears own their first-round pick. (Don't go trading your future first-round picks, folks.)
In any event, the 1-11 Panthers play the Saints, who have lost three straight games. If Carolina can win this one, then the No. 1 pick discussion can at least open back up. (Derek Carr is questionable for that game due to three different injuries.)
Houston at New York Jets, Sunday 1 p.m.
Things may be bad for the Patriots, but as a Patriots fan, you are entitled and encouraged to laugh at the misfortune of the New York Jets whenever you have the opportunity. This season has presented no shortage of those chances, and with Zach Wilson stepping back into the starter's role after reportedly being unsure about doing so? There could be another situation that allows you to chuckle.
From a football standpoint, watching C.J. Stroud try to attack one of the NFL's better defenses, on the road, in the Northeast, in December? That's worth the price of admission.
Buffalo at Kansas City, Sunday 4:25 p.m.
It's always a good idea to scout, and two of the Patriots' next three opponents will be squaring off in the big national window on Sunday afternoon. The Chiefs will be coming to Foxboro next Sunday, after the game became the first one to ever get flexed out of Monday Night Football. (Which is still crazy; does ESPN not see the value in gratuitous Taylor Swift camera shots? Slow-motion Taylor Swift replays? It gets the people watching.)
And if they lose this one, they'll enter next week having lost two in a row, three of four, and four of six, and they'll be a pedestrian 8-5. That could mean they'll enter with some vulnerabilities, or it could mean they'll enter that game feeling steamed and will unleash hell on the Patriots. Could go either way. If the Chiefs win, they'll be 9-4 and be looking to remain in the hunt for the No. 1 seed and a first-round bye.
The Patriots won't face the Bills until New Year's Eve, but they'll remain a compelling team to watch for as long as they're trying to stay afloat in the race for a playoff spot. They're currently outside of the playoff picture, so this is a massive game for them. (Let's hope, for everyone's sake, Sean McDermottto a minimum.)
Denver at Los Angeles Chargers, Sunday 4:25 p.m.
The Patriots will play the Broncos on Christmas Eve. And while football doesn't really abide by the transitive property, it could be a good test to see how the Broncos perform against the Chargers, compared to how the Patriots performed against the Chargers last week. This game will be played quasi-indoors in L.A., which is a different environment than rainy Foxboro. But still, if the Broncos dominate the Chargers, it could paint the picture for a challenging game awaiting the Patriots on Dec. 24.
Philadelphia at Dallas, Sunday 8:20 p.m.
There's nothing Patriots-related about this game. It's just a great one. Should be fun. Eagles coming off a loss. Dallas dominating a ton of bad teams. Will be worth watching.
Detroit at Chicago, Sunday 1 p.m.
Tennesse at Miami, Monday 8:15 p.m.
Green Bay at New York Giants, 8:15 p.m.
All of these are related to Draft Pick Watch 2024. With the Cardinals (3-10) and Commanders (4-9) on their bye week, the other four-win teams bear watching. None are expected to win -- the Bears are three-point home underdogs, the Giants are 6.5-point home underdogs, and the Titans are massive 13-point underdogs on the road -- so losses for all of them seem likely.
But it's sports, and it's football, and it's the NFL. And if it were that easy to predict, they wouldn't be installing new chandeliers at sportsbooks around the country. (I actually don't think many books have chandeliers, but I was going for a, "Whoa, that thing costs a lot of money and can only be purchased by an entity with a ton of spending cash" vibe. How'd I do?)
Army vs. Navy, at Gillette Stadium, Saturday at 3 p.m.
OK, this one's not an NFL game, but it'll be played in an NFL stadium. The Patriots' NFL stadium, to be exact. And . Like, a lot, a lot. So even if you don't intend to watch all 60 minutes of this one, you really ought to do your duty as a New England football fan and check it out -- on CBS, no less. (You can probably attend the game, too, as long as you reallocate your chandelier budget toward tickets on the secondary market.)
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