Football fans across the country will be rooting for their team to lose today. They should be careful what they wish for.

Fans of the Texans, 49ers, Saints, Packers and Jets are hoping for a loss so their team will have first dibs on Reggie Bush. The Texans and Niners are playing the “Bush Bowl” in San Francisco, where some of the 49er faithful may actually start booing if QB Alex Smith throws his first touchdown pass of the season.

Patriot fans may recall being in a similar position years ago. On the final day of the 1981 season, they met the Baltimore Colts in the “Stupor Bowl,” with the loser earning the No. 1 pick in the draft. The Pats lost and picked Kenneth Sims first (Who? Exactly) over Marcus Allen and Andre Tippett, among others.

Patriot Nation finds itself in a similar quandary today, although playoff, not draft, position is on the line this time. If Cincinnati loses in Kansas City today, which seems likely given the Chiefs haven’t lost at home in December since, I guess, Hank Stram coached them, then the Patriots, with a win over Miami, will overtake the Bengals for the No. 3 seed in the AFC.

Taking the No. 3 seed probably means the Pats will face Pittsburgh in the first round and then, presuming a win, will travel to Denver for the second round. If they stay in the No. 4 slot, then they’ll host Jacksonville next week and then face Indianapolis at the RCA Dome in the second round.

Many Patriot fans find the latter scenario preferable to the former, and since Cincy is unlikely to hold up their end of the bargain today, they’ll be rooting for the Patriots to lose. The thinking is that A) Jacksonville will be easier to beat than Pittsburgh next week, B) Indianapolis will be more vulnerable coming off a bye week having lost at least two out of their last three, and C) the Broncos are just a bad matchup for the Patriots.

If anybody should know how flawed this thinking is, it’s New England fans.

Think back to three months ago. The Red Sox were battling the Yankees for the A.L. East. Many Sox fans proclaimed that it didn’t matter if the Yanks took the division crown, because their reward would be having to face the mighty Anaheim Angels of Orange County Representin’ Cali in the first round. As the Wild Card, the Red Sox would face the weak-kneed Chicago White Sox, winners of the pathetic A.L Central.

“The White Sox?” Red Sox fans asked mockingly. “The team whose best pitcher is Jose Contreras? It is to laugh.”

So, how’d that work out?

The fact is, we have no idea how things will pan out in the playoffs. Don’t the Patriots own the Steelers? Isn’t it possible Jacksonville’s formidable defensive front will shut down Corey Dillon and put considerable pressure on Tom Brady? Do you really prefer facing Indy in their home dome over a team that has Jake Plummer at quarterback?

Whether your team is headed for the top of the NFL draft or the top of the NFL, there’s no way to predict how things will shake out. The Texans or Saints could get the No. 1 pick, and Reggie Bush could pull a John Elway or Eli Manning and proclaim he won’t play for them.

The Pats should win in the first round, but after that, it’s a crapshoot. They could beat anybody. They could lose to anybody.

If they’re playing their best football, they’ll probably win. If they aren’t, they definitely won’t. The only things that can happen today to change that are injuries and a loss that would squelch some of the momentum the Pats have built over the last few weeks.

Why mess with a good thing? Leave the losing to the Texans and the Saints and the Jets. Let their fans get their wish.

Randy Whitehouse is a staff writer. He can be reached at [email protected]com

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