With yesterday’s season-ending win over the Bills the Patriots clinched the No. 1 overall seed in the AFC and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. They will have this week off and await their opponent in the Divisional round next weekend.
The NFL announced last night that the Patriots will play Saturday, Jan. 14 at 8 p.m. with there opponent TBA. Here is a look at the scenarios for who the Patriots opponent could be:
Cincinnati, if they defeat Houston.
If Houston wins, then the Patriots will face the winner of the Steelers/Broncos.
Clearly, from a Patriots stand point they would want to face the Cincinnati Bengals, who enter the playoffs as the No. 6 seed. There is a chance that they could upset the No. 3 seed Houston Texans, as their quarterback T.J. Yates left yesterday’s game with a shoulder injury, but it has been reported that he will be ready to go next week. The Bengals have very little playoff experience, and ended the season with a 9-7 record after falling to the No. 2 seed Ravens yesterday.
The winner of the Broncos/Steelers game might not be as difficult as was thought a few weeks ago. The Broncos, the No. 4 seed, are struggling, losing three games in a row, including to the Patriots three weeks ago in Denver. The Broncos only got into the playoffs because the Raiders lost to the Chargers yesterday.
The Steelers, the No. 5 seed, aren’t in good health. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is battling an ankle injury suffered a few weeks back although he has not missed any time. The more significant injury occured in yesterday’s game against the Browns when Steelers running back Rashard Mendenhall reportedly tore his ACL. The Steelers, a team thought to be the favorite in the AFC is now battling serious health concerns.
No matter who the Patriots face it will not be as tough of an opponent as first thought, but as the Patriots have learned the past two seasons in the playoffs they cannot take any team lightly.