Patriots fans' Week 12 rooting guide: Non-Tom Brady/Bruce Arians Edition

75756A5E-120A-4932-810C-2FD980DB785E

Not gonna lie, can’t be sugarcoating this one anymore, folks.

Your Patriots are up against it.

No further margin for error, just about out of wiggle room. The Pats need lots of what they’ll be without for at least the next three weeks: wins (spelled differently, I know, but you see where I was going).

What this 4-6 team does best - run the ball - took a hit with Rex Burkhead out for the year and LT Isaiah Wynn hitting IR. Doesn’t make things any easier, and as is things are teetering on bleak as far as the Pats play football past January 3rd. And yet An argument, albeit one that’s rice paper thin, can be made that the Patriots still control their own destiny. To a degree. Run the table, or maybe even take five of the last six, and playoffs could be possible, especially if Week 18 becomes reality and eight teams make the playoffs. (In that case finishing as the 9th seed will be a real punch in the you-know-where.) We don’t do probability or reality here, just math and hope, friends. And while winning more games in six weeks than they’ve won in three months seems unlikely ... well, you get it. So if we’re to hold out hope, and continue this column, then it starts with the Pats upsetting the Cardinals in Foxboro. And then, should the football gods shine favorably upon us again here’s what we hope they deliver us:

CHARGERS @ BILLS - 1 p.m.

The dream of a 12th straight AFC East title may be in the rearview. But with a reasonably challenging slate for a Buffalo team that seems to win the kinds of games the Pats have lost this year, you can’t rule it out completely. Just reasonably. It’s also reasonable to think the Chargers, a team the Pats resemble as far as being competitive but somehow losing too many games you had a chance to win, could very well stun the Bills Sunday. Chargers QB Justin Herbert is in the driver’s seat for Rookie of the Year, and the Bills can be had through the air. Expect a shootout, bet the over and let’s hope the team we play next week wins. We’ve got the Cardinals to worry about before the Chargers. GO BOLTS!

TITANS @ COLTS - 1 p.m.

Between these two teams tied at 7-3 atop the AFC South it’s the Colts who have the more difficult schedule. A loss Sunday could help start the kind of late season slide we’d need to see, and have enjoyed in recent years, from Philip Rivers. And if there’s any joy to be had in this surreal season it could be watching Philip Rivers implode. And that could turn into a double delight if it’s on the Colts. Always love to see the shoe take the L. Plus we love Vrabel when he’s not playing the Pats. TITAN UP!

BROWNS @ JAGUARS - 1 p.m.

Of all the things to hold against the 2020 Patriots you might be able to make the case that asking us to root for Mike Glennon and the Jaguars against the Browns so as to help New England’s razor thin wild card hopes could be the most outrageous and offensive. That would also assume 202 has left us with any more legitimate emotions. It has not. Thus we’re asking Duuuuuuval to do our dirty work. Woe is us. GO JAGS!

RAIDERS @ FALCONS - 1 p.m.

The Raiders are a solid 6-4, having split with the Chiefs, showing signs of life, toughness and surprising fire power of late (no longer the team the Pats trampled or that got throat-punched by the Bucs). They’re looking for the same wild card as New England, and their schedule is easier. Be nice if someone like else friskier than their record, like local hero Matty Ice and the Falcons, came through and popped an upset for us. Also be nice if beer had no calories and my car got 200 miles per gallon. Whatever. If we’re keeping the dream alive we may as well dream big, so GO FALCONS!

SAINTS @ BRONCOS - 4:05 p.m.

Believe it or not, the Broncos have the same record as the Patriots, and a game in hand thanks to score of 18-12 (we hate what we did there, too). And while nobody has Denver on the postseason radar it’s still a possibility. Here’s hoping the Taysom Hill Experience or whatever Sean Payton is calling this Brees-free iteration of the Saints can keep their momentum going a mile high and put the Broncos out of sight, out of mind. GEAUX SAINTS!

RAVENS @ STEELERS - Tues, 8 p.m.

Should both teams have enough players to field a game it’ll be played on it’s third scheduled time slot, the second Tuesday Night Football game of the season. Baltimore was already in a tailspin, their play of late hardly anything John Harbaugh would be Raven about (shame bell for me). Now, with a COVID-19 depleted squad and no Lamar Jackson they’ll face an angry and undefeated Steelers squad, who also have had their ranks thinned by the great virus of 2020 as well. Seems like less attrition equals better chances. Awkward as it sounds a Pittsburgh win could have the Pats just a game behind Bal’mer. GO STEELERS!