The New England Patriots lucked out with the playoff seeding because it’s impossible for the team to face the two teams with good quarterbacks in the divisional round. In fact, the Kansas City Chiefs and Pittsburgh Steelers will have to eliminate one another for the chance to compete in the conference championship game, assuming the Steelers win against the Miami Dolphins.
Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger is clearly the second-best quarterback left in the AFC, with a passer rating of 95.4 and with the benefit of playing alongside RB Le’Veon Bell and WR Antonio Brown. Chiefs QB Alex Smith is probably the third-best quarterback, but he’s the epitome of average. He has just 15 touchdowns passes in 15 games, and thrives on the checkdown pass.
But the Patriots don’t have to worry about either quarterback since they can’t play the Patriots in the divisional round. Instead, the Patriots get to face a team with serious problems at quarterback.
#4 Houston Texans
The Patriots will face the Texans if the Steelers beat the Dolphins and the Texans beat the Raiders.
The Texans rank 30th in the NFL in quarterback passer rating, with a mere 73.3 rating. QB Brock Osweiler was benched for poor production, but was thrust back into the starting line-up after QB Tom Savage suffered a concussion in the season finale. Savage makes fewer mistakes, but neither is particularly good.
The Patriots beat the Texans 27-0 back in week 3. If New England can stop Texans RB Lamar Miller, then the Texans offense should stall. WR DeAndre Hopkins is a great talent, but there are no other consistent options. Over half of rookie WR Will Fuller’s yardage and both of his touchdowns came over the first four weeks of the season and he’s the second-leading receiver. Tight ends C.J. Fiedorowicz and Ryan Griffin are the only two other receiving options.
#5 Oakland Raiders
The Patriots will face the Raiders if the Steelers beat the Dolphins and the Raiders beat the Texans.
The Raiders lost QB Derek Carr for the season with a broken leg. Back-up Matt McGloin struggled as a back-up, barely completing half of his attempts, before a Broncos defender drove McGloin into the ground and injured his shoulder. The Raiders are not expecting McGloin to be ready to play during wild card weekend, which opens up the door for rookie QB Connor Cook to have his first NFL start.
Oakland struggled to produce against the Broncos in their season finale, despite having a first round bye on the line. The Raiders have a plenty of talent at the skill positions- although they rely heavily on WR Amari Cooper and WR Michael Crabtree- but it’s looking like they won’t have a quarterback to get the ball down the field.
#6 Miami Dolphins
The Patriots will face the Dolphins if Miami upsets the Steelers.
The Dolphins offense and back-up QB Matt Moore really struggled against the Patriots defense in a 35-14 season finale loss and the only possible change for Miami between now and the divisional round would be the possible return of QB Ryan Tannehill. The Dolphins have the best quarterback situation of the Patriots possible divisional round opponents.
Could the Dolphins be this year’s version of the 2010 New York Jets, that get blown out in the regular season and come back to win the postseason? Perhaps. They’ll have to go on the road and get past the Pittsburgh Steelers, who are 10-point favorites next weekend. It’s far more likely that the Patriots will host either the Texans or Raiders in the divisional round.