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Who should Patriots fans root for this week?

12.05.12 at 12:22 pm ET
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With the postseason looming, the 9-3 Patriots are currently in a three-way tie with the Ravens and Broncos for the second spot in the AFC playoff picture. (New England actually holds the edge in a three-way tie because of its superior conference record.) Here’€™s a look at who some of their conference rivals are facing this week, and their respective chances — fundamentally, consider this a weekly clip-and-save chart of who you want to root for if you’€™re a Patriots fan.

Broncos at Raiders: Thursday at 8:20 p.m.
The Broncos have won seven straight, but are in the midst of one of the most forgiving second-half schedules in recent memory. (The combined record of their four remaining opponents is .375, with only one team above .500.) That stretch continues Thursday night when they visit an Oakland to face a 3-9 Raiders team that is once again playing out the string. Bottom line is that its unlikely New England will get much help in this one.

Ravens at Redskins: Sunday at 1 p.m.
Maybe the most palatable situation for Patriots fans — pulling for the Redskins, a team that just knocked off the Giants. Frankly, at the start of the year, this game probably didn’€™t figure to be all that compelling, particularly for New England football fans. But RG3 and the Redskins can do the Patriots a big favor of they can knock off Baltimore. While it’€™s likely that the Broncos will beat the Raiders, a Ravens’€™ loss would create a small amount of separation for New England heading into its Monday night game against the Texans.

Chargers at Steelers: Sunday at 1 p.m.
A Pittsburgh loss could effectively put the 7-5 Steelers out of the running for the No. 2 spot, but putting your faith in Philip Rivers isn’€™t necessarily the wise thing to do. (For the record, a West Coast team coming East and playing at 1 p.m. is rarely a recipe for success.) Pittsburgh is hoping to get Ben Roethlisberger back as soon as possible — Steelers’€™ fans can only take so many of these throws from Charlie Batch. San Diego could always pull an upset, but like the first game, it doesn’€™t appear the Patriots will get much help from their AFC West contemporaries in this one.

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