I will break down the possible opponents that the New England Patriots might play in the Divisional round.
Can Schaub get it done? Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
Houston Texans: If the Houston Texans are able to beat the Cincinnati Bengals they will travel to Foxboro and play against the New England Patriots. Four weeks ago they already had to make the trip up to New England and were embarrassed by the Pats. Houston is currently in deep trouble. The team that looked so good early in the season has been playing terrible football for the last seven weeks. It all began with the pass defense suddenly imploding against Chad Henne and the Jaguars. The problem stayed for four weeks, but the situation was stabilized with the return of a healthy Jonathan Joseph. The problem then moved to the offense. In the last two games Matt Schaub has played extremely poor. He will be starting his first NFL playoff of his career since it was T.J. Yates who led the Texans past the Bengals last year. Schaub has the weapons around him to lead this team deep into the playoffs. He has a top-notch running game, an amazing of offensive line and an above average receiving core lead by Andre Johnson. I do believe they the Texans will play well enough to beat the Bengals, but I can´t see them endangering the Patriots Super Bowl run in any way. The Pats might not be as dominant as they were in week 14, but Tom Brady will still destroy their pass defense. The key for the Patriots in this possible matchup is that the offensive line needs to block as well as they did in week 14.
Ray Lewis finally returns to the field Wild Card weekend. It will likely be his last game at M&T Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Baltimore Ravens: The Ravens are the team that I rather have the Patriots avoid. Given, this team hasn’t look extremely good for the majority of the season, but they are a dangerous team coming into these playoffs. This team wants to make Ray Lewis´s last run a memorable one. Last year they were one play away from going to the Super Bowl and they want to make up for it this year. The Ravens have shown flashes of their talent throughout the year. A major factor is going to be the health of Haloti Ngata, Terrell Suggs and Ray Lewis. How healthy are they really? At the end I believe that it will come down to Joe Flacco. He has the ability to win or ruin a game for the Ravens. Which Joe Flacco will we see during the playoffs? Will it be the one who absolutely annihilated the Giants or the one who lost the game for Ravens against the Broncos the week before? The one thing Jim Caldwell has to do to get this Ravens offense going is give the ball to Ray Rice. Ray Rice is the best player on the offensive side of the field for the Ravens and if they want a chance to have another deep playoff run they need to give Rice 20+ touches per game.
Indianapolis Colts: The Colts reaching the playoffs was big surprise for many. I do not understand why. The reason the Colts have reached the playoffs because of an extremely weak schedule and an extremely weak AFC conference. The Colts have played a good season and have definitely shown that this team has deep playoff runs in their future, but not this year. Only two victories really impressed me this entire year. The first one was the huge upset against Green Bay and the second one was last week against the Texans. Otherwise they have just showed the consistency to defeat their weak opponents. Andrew Luck has led a promising rookie campaign but he has faded a bit towards the end of the season. This offense does not have the fire power to keep up with up with the amount of points the other playoff teams are going to score against the colts defense. I see the Colts as the big underdog in their game versus the Ravens and if they manage to beat the Ravens and end up playing the Patriots, the game will be very similar to the 59-24 loss they suffered in week 11.
Overall: The New England Patriots can beat anybody team in the NFL. It would be to the Pats benefit if Baltimore would travel to Denver and not too Foxboro. If Baltimore does end up playing in New England I would expect a close game. I do not see the two possible AFC south opponents as a large threat towards the next Super Bowl run of the New England Patriots.