For all of the build-up this week in trying to figure out who the Patriots will play next week in the playoffs, the guessing game could be over tonight if the New York Jets somehow beat the Indianapolis Colts. Thus far in the site poll, Pats fans want to see the Patriots face the Jets next week. However, that would mean rooting for those Rex Ryan-led Jets tonight. It’s the same conundrum Pats fans faced when watching the AFC Championship game last season: Root for the hated Peyton Manning-led Colts or the hated divisional rival Jets. Personally, I find it EXTREMELY difficult to root for the Jets tonight, especially after Ryan’s latest comments.
Rex Ryan decided in his infinite wisdom to get a dig on Tom Brady while praising Peyton Manning. In this sense, I’d love to watch Brady tear apart Ryan’s defense worse than he did last time. However, at the same time, I can’t root for this blowhard. Here’s what Ryan said, just in case you missed it:
“Nobody studies like him,” Ryan said of Manning. “I know Brady thinks he does and all that stuff. I think there’s probably a little more help from Belichick with Brady than there is with Peyton Manning.”
Questioning Brady’s work ethic is not the smartest idea. I won’t be upset should the Jets win tonight, because then Brady would get his shot at Ryan. However, I’ll be rooting for the Colts tonight to send Ryan home early.
Should the Colts win tonight, we’ll have to wait for the winner of the Ravens/Chiefs game tomorrow (1 pm on CBS) to see who the Pats will play next week. There are advantages and disadvantages to playing each team. The Patriots have beaten the Ravens already this season, and that was when they were a lesser team than they are now. Joe Flacco has yet to prove that he can carry a team on his back if the running game can’t get going. However, the Ravens have gotten the running game going again with Ray Rice, making them a dangerous offensive team, and the Pats have depth issues on their defensive line. Defensively, while the Ravens have given up points late in games, they are still a tough unit that wreaked havoc on Tom Brady during last year’s playoffs. Terrell Suggs has made his dislike of Brady apparent throughout the season with constant comments, which will serve as some strong bulletin board material for #12.
The Chiefs enter the playoffs for the first time and probably have one of the weaker rosters in the AFC playoffs. They are a young and up-and-coming team, with no playoffs experience. Belichick is a master of taking away what an offense is good at and making them try and beat him with their weaknesses, and if Belichick can take away the Chiefs’ running game, I don’t think Matt Cassel can beat the Pats. Devin McCourty can limit Dwayne Bowe’s effectiveness, which would cripple the passing attack. The problem with facing the Chiefs is that there is probably no other team in the league that knows the Patriots’ system like the Chiefs do. They have Scott Pioli who knows personnel, Charlie Weiss running the offense and Romeo Crennel running the defense. The Pats struggle against coaches who know their system (i.e. Mangini, McDaniels) and the Chiefs would likely present the toughest chess match for the Pats in the playoffs.
Whether we find out tonight or tomorrow, Belichick has likely already put together three basic game plans and will refine the one he will have to use during the week. One thing that Patriots fans can be confident about: No matter who the opponent, the Pats will be prepared because they have the NFL’s best coach in Bill Belichick and its Most Valuable Player in Tom Brady.