There haven’t been many No. 1 seeds over the years with as many question marks as the 2011 Patriots.
The fact that they have lost in the divisional round at home in back-to-back years simply adds to the doubt. Here’s a list, in order, of which teams the Pats would most like to see come Jan. 14 at 8 p.m.
1. Bengals: The “Ochocinco Bowl” won’t exactly get the suits at CBS giddy, but you can bet that Belichick would be happy with this draw. The Bengals rank 20th in passing yards in the league and are 19th in rushing. The Patriots defense would love to see this group over, say, Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers.
2. Broncos: It was just three weeks ago that Tebow-mania was running wild and the Patriots were next in line to feel the wrath of the pigskin preacher. While he was never to be confused with Dan Marino in the pocket in the first place, Tebow has actually regressed as a passer since seeing the Pats. He tossed a combined four interceptions and has averaged 122.5 passing yards per game in losses to Buffalo and Kansas City.
3. Steelers: It seems inevitable that the Steelers will invade Gillette Stadium. We’re just not sure when. Though Pittsburgh has been beat up as of late, it is still a top 10 passing team. In addition, 27-year-old Isaac Redman has proven to be a capable running back in place of the injured Rashard Mendenhall.