The New England Patriots wouldn’t sign a player simply to take their scouting notes, but finding a player that can contribute and is familiar with the Patriots’ upcoming opponents is certainly a Bill Belichick-type signing.
The Patriots signed pass rusher James Harrison to a veteran’s minimum deal for the rest of the season and let’s just say he knows all of New England’s potential playoff opponents.
#2 seed: Pittsburgh Steelers
The Steelers are happy that Harrison has found a new team, although they’re probably saying that through gritted teeth. Harrison is as familiar with the Steelers as any other player in the NFL, having spent 14 seasons with Pittsburgh. He’ll know all of the tendencies of the offensive linemen from practice and he’ll know what the Steelers game plan was against the Patriots in week 15.
“The Steelers largely believe the two teams know each other well enough,” per ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler, so Harrison won’t be giving the Patriots any new information. But every little bit helps.
New England can’t play the Steelers until the conference championship game.
#3 seed: Jacksonville Jaguars
Pittsburgh was crushed by the Jaguars 30-9 back in week 5 of the regular season, so some inside info from Harrison on how Jacksonville was able to accomplish that would certainly be helpful.
The Patriots can only play the Jaguars in the divisional round if the New York Jets upset New England in the season finale.
#4 seed: Kansas City Chiefs
In 15 snaps against the Chiefs back in week 6, Harrison recorded 3 tackles and a sack. He’s had plenty of success against Chiefs left tackle Eric Fisher, racking up 3.5 sacks in his previous 5 games vs Kansas City.
In last season’s playoff game between the Steelers and Chiefs, Harrison recorded 2 sacks, 2 quarterback hits, 3 quarterback hurries, 1 forced fumble, 6 solo tackles, and 8 stops in the run game, per Pro Football Focus.
Kansas City is the most likely divisional round opponent for the Patriots.
#5 seed: Baltimore Ravens
Harrison has spent his entire NFL career in the AFC North so he’s extremely familiar with the Ravens, having played them twice per year for his entire career. He has 19 sacks in 30 games against Baltimore. Harrison played just 11 snaps against the Ravens this year, but posted 6 sacks in his previous 5 regular season games against Baltimore.
The Ravens are the second-most likely divisional round opponent for the Patriots.
#6 seed: Tennessee Titans
The Steelers defeated the Titans 40-17 back in week 11 and Pittsburgh racked up 5 sacks on Marcus Mariota. Harrison didn’t play, but he was definitely a part of the Steelers game-planning and can give the players some information on various Titans tendencies.
Harrison is familiar with the Patriots potential playoff opponents and has racked up 4.5 sacks in his past 5 playoff games. If he can have a similarly impressive postseason run, then he’ll be able to help send the Patriots back to another championship game.