After suffering what could arguably be the worst season of injuries, the Patriots will be getting key players back for the postseason. The Patriots started the season 10-0, but lost 4 of the final 6 when the injuries started to pile up. The Patriots will never use injuries as an excuse, but the final few regular season games they played more like it's the preseason than the regular season. The Patriots current roster as is probably doesn't stand a chance in the playoffs, but the return of Julian Edelman should boost the offense while a rested Dont'a Hightower should have a similar effect on defense. Even though the Patriots are the #2 seed, I believe they will still wind up hosting the AFCCG.
The Patriots offense really struggled with Edelman out of the lineup after breaking his foot against the Giants in Week 10. Edelman is Tom Brady's most trusted receiver and consistently gets open quick due to his insane short-area athleticism. That helps Brady and the offensive line, who has really struggled in the second half of the season. The offense will be closer to the production of Weeks 1-8, which they'll need to make a Super Bowl run.
Another key player returning is OT Sebastian Vollmer. After starting the season at RT, he was forcas to the other side when Marcus Cannon and Nate Solder got injured. Vollmer returned to the right side until they realized he was a better option than Cannon in Week 11. Vollmer played LT until he got his left leg rolled up against the Jets by Joey Iosefa. Vollmer is battling an ankle sprain at the moment, but I'd expect him back for the Divisional Round game, since that's four weeks after the injury occurred.
Dont'a Hightower initially injured his left knee when hit by a cut-block against the Broncos and has tried to battle through it. The Patriots are hoping two weeks of rest will make the injury better and make it less likely that he re-aggravates it again. Hightower is the Patriots best run stopper at the LB level and the signal caller of the defense, so his presence is crucial. We know he has a strong pain tolerance since he played with a destroyed shoulder last postseason, notably making a Herculean effort to stop Marshall Lynch at the 1 and setting up Malcolm Butler to be the biggest Boston Sports hero not named Tom Brady or David Ortiz.
The Patriots need both safeties Devin McCourty and Patrick Chung playing as close to 100% as possible. McCourty is the leader of the secondary and is often helping on the opponent's top receiving threat. Chung is a physical run stopper that can play that extra LB role on base downs. In addition, he can cover TES and some slot receivers fairly well. With those two covering the back-end, the Patriots defense plays much better.
If Danny Amendola, Brandon LaFell, Chandler Jones and others also get as healthy as they can, then the Patriots can operate at close to 100% efficiency as possible. At full strength, the Patriots are the best team in the AFC. They'll play the highest remaining seed between Cincinnati, Houston, and Kansas City. I'm probably expecting them to play Kansas City, although I can see Houston winning that game as well. The Patriots next game will be at Foxboro, no matter who the opponent is.