As usual, the Patriots are pushing for the AFC's best record. With a win they would become the first team in NFL history with eight consecutive division titles.
"We just gotta keep it rolling," Patriots safety Devin McCourty said. "That's whether you want to call it a playoff game, must-win, or any of that stuff. Once you get into December and toward the end of December, every game is important. There's really no rebounding and trying to fix things. You want to try and play your best ball every time you go out there and play."
While they can't clinch home-field advantage throughout the playoffs this weekend, they could grab the East simply by Miami not beating the Jets. A first-round bye comes with a Patriots win, too.
Denver has not been one of Tom Brady's favorite places. The Broncos are the only team Brady has a losing record against: 6-9, 2-7 in Denver, including two losses last season, the second for the AFC championship. And the Broncos still have that strong defense.
But Denver's offense has sputtered badly and can't afford a shootout with New England.
For the Broncos to have a chance to repeat as champs, they must negotiate the toughest closing trio of opponents: New England, Kansas City and Oakland.