Here is a ranking of every potential playoff opponent the Patriots may have to face from 1-11:
The Patriots already played the Redskins this year back in Week 9, and handled them fairly easily. I know Washington has gotten better as the year has progressed, but do you really see Kirk Cousins and Jay Gruden giving Tom Brady and Bill Belichick trouble in the Super Bowl?
This is the same type of deal as the Redskins. The Pats already whipped Houston earlier in the year, and that was with a limited Rob Gronkowski and no Julian Edelman. With those two at, or close to 100%, New England rolls at home.
It’s still Aaron Rodgers, so you can’t completely dismiss the Packers, but this year’s version isn’t that terrifying. Receivers can’t separate, the offensive line struggles to protect Rodgers, and the defense isn’t good enough to make up for the lackluster offense.
A 10-game winning streak is always impressive, but Kansas City had to play one good team, and that was the Broncos (who aren’t that great). The defense is solid, and the offense doesn’t turn the ball over, but I can’t imagine an Alex Smith-led team will outscore Tom Brady in Foxboro in January. It just won’t happen.
Aside from the quarterback position, this Bengals team is a Super Bowl-worthy roster. They have elite playmakers on offense, a good offensive line, and one of the most balanced defenses in the league. However you need a quarterback to win playoff games in this day and age, and whether it is Andy Dalton or AJ McCarron, Cincy doesn’t have that QB.
Any team that can run the ball, control the clock, and play solid defense is a threat to the Patriots. The best defense you can play against Tom Brady is a good running game on offense, and Minnesota has just that in Adrian Peterson. Because of that ground control, they could keep the game close.
The reason I have Pittsburgh this high on the list is because of that trio of wide receivers Big Ben has to work with. Malcolm Butler and Logan Ryan are very good corners, but the Steelers have too much firepower for Bill Belichick’s defense to contain. Luckily for them, Tom Brady always eats up Pittsburgh’s defense.
This Broncos team needed overtime, and a TON of awful calls to beat the Patriots’ practice squad back in November. This time around New England will have Julian Edelman, Danny Amendola, Rob Gronkowski, Jamie Collins, and Dont’a Hightower all around 100%. Game over. (Also Peyton Manning returning only helps the Pats).
Carolina’s 15-1 campaign was impressive, but they were never the best team in the league. The defense is good but not great, the offense is too reliant on Cam Newton, and when it comes playoff time, their lack of offensive weapons will come back to bite them.
The last time we saw the Cardinals, they were getting their butts kicked by the Seahawks. Because of that, I’m giving Seattle the nod over Arizona in these rankings. I still honestly think the Cards have a better chance at getting back to the Super Bowl, but from a Patriots perspective, Seattle is scarier.