The New England Patriots host a divisional round game on Saturday, January 13 at 8:15 PM ET at Gillette Stadium. Their opponent is not yet known, but there are three potential options. These are the teams the Patriots could face and how they match up with New England’s strengths and weaknesses.
Offensive rank: 2.21 points per drive (6th)
Defensive rank: 1.85 points allowed per drive (21st)
The Chiefs dominated the Patriots 42-27 in the season opener and roared out to a 5-0 start to the season. They fell apart and went 1-6 over their next seven games, before rebounding and going 4-0 to close out the season. What team are they? They’re a mix of all three stretches.
The offense is built to take advantage of the Patriots style of defense, with quarterback Alex Smith willing and capable of leading 10+ play drives. They have a strong running game with Kareem Hunt and can set up second- and third-and-short opportunities that create home run shots for Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce. It’s probably the most difficult offense the Patriots could face in the AFC.
The defense is also troublesome. While they’ve struggled at points this year, they’ve held opponents to 16 or fewer points in five of their six games after the bye week before resting the starters in the finale. They have quality players at every level of the defense, with Justin Houston and Chris Jones sure to give the Patriots offensive line troubles and Marcus Peters sure to capitalize on any errant passes.
Kansas City is the team the Patriots want to avoid in the divisional round, but are their most likely opponent.
Offensive rank: 1.72 PPD (19th)
Defensive rank: 1.81 PAPD (17th)
The Titans are an absolutely average team with a -22 point differential on the year. Quarterback Marcus Mariota threw 15 interceptions against only 13 touchdowns. No player on offense had more than 1,000 yards from scrimmage and their leader in yards, DeMarco Murray with 925, tore his MCL.
In other words, no one should be afraid of the Tennessee offense.
The defense, however, is pretty solid. Old friend Logan Ryan is a starting cornerback across from rookie Adoree Jackson, while free safety Kevin Byard notched an impressive 8 interceptions. It’s a disruptive defense, but it’s coached by Dick LeBeau and that means the Patriots already have the answer key since LeBeau coached the Steelers for most of the past two decades.
The Titans would be one of the more ideal opponents for the Patriots to face in the divisional round.
Offensive rank: 1.57 PPD (23rd)
Defensive rank: 1.90 PAPD (23rd)
Congratulations to the Bills on reaching the postseason for the first time since 1999-2000. They have to get through the Jacksonville Jaguars, which is not likely to happen with star running back LeSean McCoy dealing with a sprained ankle he suffered in the regular season finale.
McCoy is essentially the entire Bills offense, with 1,586 yards from scrimmage. Tight end Charles Clay rank second with 558 and quarterback Tyrod Taylor ranks third with 427- and if the quarterback is one of the top three producers in yards from scrimmage, then the cupboard is bare.
The Patriots defeated the Bills in both games this year by a combined score of 60-19. Buffalo failed to score a touchdown on offense. But I really don’t like the idea of facing a team three times in one year, so I can’t consider them the ideal opponent.
In my opinion, the best scenario for the Patriots would be a Jaguars and Titans victory on wild card weekend, setting up the Patriots against the Titans and the Pittsburgh Steelers against the Jaguars. What do you think?