Setting the scene: Patriots-Jaguars
|12.23.12 at 11:31 am ET|
The forecast calls for mostly cloudy skies and temperatures in the mid-50s at EverBank Field in Jacksonville as the Patriots look to bounce back from their 41-34 loss to the 49ers Sunday night and stay alive for one of two first-week byes in the AFC playoffs.
There are several scenarios possible for the Patriots. If the 10-4 Patriots win, they could move into the No. 2 spot with a Broncos (11-3) loss at home to the Browns. The Pats would control their own destiny for a bye with a win over the Dolphins on Dec. 30 at Gillette Stadium.
If the Patriots and Broncos win, then the No. 2 spot will likely come down to the final weekend, when the Broncos host the Kansas City Chiefs.
There is an outside chance the Patriots could still wind up with the No. 1 seed. They would need the 12-2 Texans to lose to Minnesota today at home and at Indianapolis next week. The Patriots would need to win both games and also have Denver lose once.
The Texans clinch the No. 1 seed and home field throughout the AFC playoffs with a win today or next week.
The Patriots will have to win without three regulars. Rob Gronkowski will miss his fifth straight game after breaking his left forearm on Nov. 18 against the Colts. He did not make the trip to Jacksonville for the game. Also out for the game is Brandon Spikes with an ankle injury. Rookie defensive back Alfonzo Dennard is out after tweaking his right knee late in the first half last Sunday night against the 49ers.
All three players practiced this week but were limited before being ruled out by the Patriots on Saturday night.
The Patriots will look to avoid back-to-back losses in December for the first time since 2002, the third year of the Bill Belichick era in Foxboro. The Patriots are 21-1 in the second half of the season, losing last week for the first time since Jan. 3, 2010.
The Patriots enter the game with an NFL-leading 506 points. They are the first franchise in NFL history to score 500 or more points in four seasons (2007-589), (2010-518), (2011-513) and this season.
The Patriots also join the 1999-01 Rams as the only teams to have scored 500 or more points in three straight seasons, with Belichick becoming the first NFL coach to oversee three straight such seasons.