By: Mike Saver/Saver-Sports.com
December 19, 2010

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Entering the final weeks of the season, the Patriots couldn't be in a better position. They've been the hottest team in football since Thanksgiving, which coach Belichick always points to as the beginning of football season.

There are a lot of scenarios that could play out with regards to playoff seeding and division winners. The Patriots are currently the only team to have clinched a playoff spot but there's still more to be accomplished. Beating the Green Bay Packers on Sunday Night Football isn't the only thing that's important. If some other things fall into place around the league, the Pats could very well be getting hats and t-shirts if they beat the Pack.

Here's a breakdown of where New England fan's rooting interests should lie this Sunday:

Pittsburgh over New York Jets
It shouldn't be hard for Boston fans to root for the Jets to lose so this one's a given. A Jets loss would give Patriot fans bragging rights that they sent them crashing down in that 45-3 demolition on Monday Night Football. However there's an added bonus if New York continues it's downward slope. A Jets loss and Patriots win would mean that New England effectively clinches the AFC East title for the eight time in Belichick's 10 year tenure - giving them a first round bye in the post-season.

Miami over Buffalo
Admittedly, this game is the least important of all those highlighted here. It's mainly insurance for if the Jets do win. Every scenario involving New York clinching a trip to the post-season requires the Dolphins to lose.

Out of pure spite of Gang Green, Patriots fans should hope Rex Ryan's big pre-season talk ends up with his team not even making the playoffs. The Jets losing would certainly help that cause but incase that doesn't happen Miami needs a win to keep them from clinching.

Jacksonville over Indianapolis
The lesser the competition in the post-season, the better chance the Pats have at getting to the Super Bowl. The Colts are starting to get healthy at the right time and could be a dangerous sleeper if they can sneak into the post-season. Nobody wants to face Peyton Manning in the playoffs.

Meanwhile, Jacksonville has been historically dominated by the Patriots as New England holds a 5-0 record against the team. If Jacksonville can complete a season sweep of Indy on Sunday they will clinch the AFC South title and end Manning and the Colts' season early.

Kansas City over St. Louis
San Diego's in a similar situation as Indianapolis. They are just starting to get healthy and could do some serious damage in the post-season. In fact, before the season, many experts had them picked to be in Dallas for the Super Bowl.

They have an explosive offense with Philip Rivers throwing to Antonio Gates, Malcolm Floyd and Vincent Jackson and they've got the number one ranked defense in the league. However, due to early season struggles, the Chargers are one game behind the Kansas City Chiefs for the AFC West title. If the Chiefs lose on Sunday, the two will be tied. If they win against the Rams and win out the rest of the season the Bolts will be out of the playoffs.

Tom Brady and co. struggled against the Chargers in October and while that was early in the year - as a Patriots fan - I'd rather see the Kansas City Chiefs than San Diego in January.

Denver over Oakland, Arizona over Carolina, Chicago over Minnesota
In that order. These games won't have any bearing on what happens to New England in the post-season. However, they're very much involved with what the Patriots can do in the off-season. The Pats own high draft picks of all of these teams so the worse they do, the better the pick Bill Belichick will get.

By trading Richard Seymour last year, the Pats got the Raiders' first round pick. With a rookie salary scale, Patriots fans should hope that the pick is as high as possible. A successful Broncos debut for Tim Tebow against the Raiders would greatly serve that purpose.

The Patriots also own Carolina's second round pick as a result of trading a third rounder in the 2010 draft, and they own Minnesota's third round pick from the Randy Moss trade. Both of those look like they'll be high picks. Expect the Patriots team that's soaring right now to get even better next year.

And of course, most importantly, New England over Green Bay

Week 15 Picks:
New Orleans over Baltimore (28-10)
Arizona over Carolina (24-14)
Cleveland over Cincinnati (16-10)
Dallas over Washington (31-6)
Indianapolis over Jacksonville (35-28)
Miami over Buffalo (26-10)
Philadelphia over New York Giants (28-23)
Kansas City over St. Louis (14-10)
Detroit over Tampa Bay (16-14)
Houston over Tennessee (35-13)
Atlanta over Seattle (21-14)
Oakland over Denver (27-17)
Pittsburgh over New York Jets (20-10)
New England over Green Bay (24-9)
Chicago over Minnesota (28-3)

Mike Saver is a regular contributor to PatsFans.com and covers Boston Sports for Saver-Sports.com and CelticsLife.com. You can also follow him on Twitter @SaverSports, as well as Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/saversports)


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