Although the Patriots will be off this weekend, it doesn’t mean the games being played don’t have any relevance to Pats fans as New England’s opponent in the divisional round, (Jan. 13, 4:30 p.m., Gillette Stadium), will be determined. Here is a look at the possible opponents for New England:
1. Baltimore (Avoid at all costs)
This is the potential matchup which should scare Patriots fans the most. The common thread between teams who have defeated New England this season (including the Ravens, 31-30, in Week 3) is physicality – a trademark of this franchise. Baltimore has won a playoff game in each of the last four seasons with coach John Harbaugh at the helm. As if Baltimore needed any more motivation, linebacker Ray Lewis announced this week that he will retire following the playoffs, which should give the team something more to play for as they attempt to send him out on top.
Scenario to play Patriots: If Cincinnati defeats Houston, a win over Indianapolis.
2. Houston (Bring ‘em on)
Houston limped into the playoffs losing three out of its last four games, going from the best team in the AFC to the No. 3 seed and having to play on wild card weekend. The Patriots played arguably their best game of the season against Houston in Week 14, pasting the Texans, 42-14, on Monday Night Football. The Texans do have the seventh best offense in the league, averaging 371.1 yards per game and are eighth in points per game with 26, but New England limited them to 323 yards and 12 points just over a month ago.
Scenario to play Patriots: A win over Cincinnati.
3. Indianapolis (Ho-hum)
Despite the rally behind head coach Chuck Pagano’s emotional return, the Colts might be the team Patriots fans want to face the most. New England defeated the Colts, 59-24, at Gillette Stadium in Week 11 and would have no problem scoring points against them as they rank 21st in the league against the pass and 29th against the run. Although quarterback Andrew Luck has had a sensational rookie season, the Colts defense will eventually be their downfall. They would be a welcomed opponent in the divisional round.
Scenario to play Patriots: If Cincinnati defeats Houston, a win over Baltimore.