Haven't checked through all this thread, but I maybe tempted to watch The Hobbit. I have never seen any of The Lord of The Rings triology, but I am hoping this wont make any difference.
No, it shouldn't make any difference at all as far as the Hobbit films are concerned seeing as it all precedes the LotR era. I hope that, on watching the Hobbit films, it will encourage you to watch LotR (extended versions, preferably) as you are missing a real treat. They are brilliant films imho.