The New England Patriots return from their bye week on Sunday. They’ll be returning to the site of one of their two wins this season, heading back to the Meadowlands to take on the New York Giants (let me acknowledge that headline isn’t entirely correct – the Patriots are actually back in New Jersey).
These two teams are known for playing big games – having met twice in the Super Bowl this century (no need to get into those results). This week’s game is still meaningful, but in a very different sense.
—Bill Belichick makes it clear what he’s looking for from his quarterbacks
—Who got the Patriots’ quarterback reps in practice to start the week?
—WATCH: Apple TV releases first look at upcoming Patriots dynasty docuseries
Heading into this Week 12 meeting, both teams are in contention for a top draft pick. At 2-8, the Patriots would have the third overall pick if the draft were held now. The Giants aren’t far behind at 3-8, sitting in fifth place in the hypothetical draft order. Whichever team loses this game will have the inside track on a top three pick with a month and a half to go in the season.
While this may be where fans’ rooting interest lies this Sunday, it’s important to remember that the draft standing is of zero relevance to any of the players or coaches who will be on the field on Sunday. Players are still playing to put out good tape and make sure they’re on a roster next year – on their current team or elsewhere – while both coaching staffs are likely trying to save their jobs. Everybody involved in the game will be trying to win, there should be no questions about that.
Keeping that in mind, where will this game be decided? For those watching for reasons beyond draft standing, here’s what to look for…