In order for our boys to return to the holy land that they have not seen since 2007, they are going to have to run through some stiff competition along the way. There are several teams in the AFC who promote defense over offense. Most of these teams come in with the reverse idea of the Pats bend don’t break defense, they are bend don’t break on offense and win the game with their defense. There are several defensive stalwarts putting their mark on the AFC this season; Pittsburgh’s and old faithful, Baltimore is making its last push as a defensive presence, Houston and Cincy found themselves in the top ranks in several defensive categories this season, and Denver has shown signs of being a defensive nightmare for some teams. New England is on the opposite end of the spectrum, putting up ridiculous offensive numbers while watching their defense struggle to keep them in games. Nonetheless, this has led them to a 13-3 record with a first round bye and home field advantage in the AFC. So let’s take a look at what could shake out in these playoffs and who the Patriots are going to beat in order to get that 4th ring.
Cincinnati vs Houston
Saturday the 7th, Cincinnati goes into Houston to take on the illustrious T.J. Yates and the Texans. Sorely missing Matt Schaub as they went into a recent skid, the Texans still have the presence of Andre Johnson and Arian Foster on their side. I just don’t see this being enough to take the Bengals and rookie red-head quarterback Andy Dalton. Dalton along with fellow rookie AJ Green have had stellar seasons in their first ever NFL campaign leading the Bengals to a playoff spot. But it has been the defense that has held down the fort for the Bengals, and that is what will win them this game. The Bengals will pull out a squeaker with a 17-14 win in Houston.
Pittsburgh vs Denver
If you have ever read anything I’ve written about Tim Tebow in the past you can probably come to the conclusion that I am going to go ahead and select the Steelers to fly by Denver. Tebow will fold as we have all seen him do in his last few games, especially against fast linebackers who will be able to run with him (Lawrence Timmons, LaMar Woodley). Steelers pummel the Broncos 31-13 and move onto the next round.
New England vs Cincinnati
The savvy Cincinnati defense might be in over their heads when they travel into New England to face a Tom Brady who is hungry for some playoff redemption. He has seen his time Super Bowl champion Patriots be run off their own field too many times in recent years to not go out and put a whooping on the once deemed Bengals. The defense bends, and bends some more, but does not fully break in half on their way to a 35-27 victory over Cincy. New England makes its way back to the AFC championship game.
Pittsburgh vs Baltimore
This is one of those playoff matches for the ages. A bitter rivalry that has been dominated by the Steelers in recent years, but has seen Baltimore take the reins this season with 2 victories in as many match-ups. This is a tough one to determine, but considering the battered state that the Steelers are in (Roethlisberger bum leg, Mendenhall out for the playoffs, Woodley, Polamalu, Harrison all banged up) I have a feeling that Flacco and the birds can take their 3rd victory over the Steel Curtain this season. Thus leading to an AFC Championship of the Baltimore Ravens vs the New England Patriots.
New England vs Baltimore
We all know what happened the last time these two AFC giants faced off, Ray Rice started the game with a huge touchdown run before the Foxboro Faithful were even in their seats. I do not see that happening again this time. I do believe it is going to be a struggle to stop Ray Rice who is on a tear right now, but I think the Ravens are going to have an equally, if not more difficult time stopping the Patriots dynamic offense. I don’t see Ray Lewis being able to cover Rob Gronkowski or Aaron Hernandez. Will Terrell Suggs be a problem? Absolutely. Matt Light is going to have his hands full with that stupid son of a bitch coming off the edge, but Brady knows when to get rid of the ball (take a lesson Tebow). It is going to be an absolute bloodbath of a game, an old fashion gridiron duel where the winner kind of feels like a loser because they also go their asses kicked. The Patriots will walk away victorious with a tough 31-29 victory leading them to the Super Bowl in luxurious Indianapolis. See you there folks!