Foxborough, Massachusetts - With the number two seed secured by the New England Patriots after their 38-3 victory over the New York Jets, many fans immediately turned to the rest of the league to see who New England might face in the AFC Divisional Round when a formidable foe would wind up coming to Gillette Stadium.
With the way the bracket shook out, the Patriots could end up facing the Houston Texans, the Los Angeles Chargers, or the Baltimore Ravens. It’s not like how it was in previous years when there were clear teams that fans wanted the Patriots to face, whether they were the formerly abysmal Texans two years ago or the Blake Bortles led Jacksonville Jaguars just a season ago. This year, every team in the AFC seems very competent and very capable of defeating New England. But how do they stack up?
It’s no secret that no team wants to play the Ravens in the playoffs. Baltimore started out sluggishly with a 4-5 record off of a three game losing streak, but they quickly subbed out Joe Flacco for rookie Lamar Jackson, who led the team to a 6-1 record and the AFC North title. The Ravens have always been known for their stingy defense, but now they have a truly electrifying offense to go with it. The Patriots should hope the most to steer clear of Baltimore.
Following the Ravens, the next worst matchup for the Patriots would definitely be the Chargers. Towards the end of the season, the Chargers were arguably more deserving of the AFC West title than the Kansas City Chiefs were. Philip Rivers quietly put up MVP esque numbers during the season and he is most effective against weaker defenses, which the Patriots definitely have. Undefeated on the road, I’d be nervous to see the Chargers come into Foxborough.
Lastly, I am least afraid of the Patriots facing the Texans (and yes, I am aware of how this could come back to bite me). The Patriots defeated the Texans 27-20 this season, but since that was in the first week of the campaign, it’s hardly relevant now. Instead, my confidence comes from Deshaun Watson. There’s no denying his talent, but we’ve yet to see how he performs on the stage of the playoffs. That being said, the Texans, with their youth, speed, and agility, are more than capable of beating the veteran Patriots. Bill Belichick should be ready for a slug fest, no matter which team visits New England in a week and a half.