The New England Patriots are now 10-4 and have secured their third consecutive play-off appearance. The question is, after last years Super Bowl defeat to the New York Giants, will Tom Brady and his Patriots have another chance to play in the big one?
After a blow out win against the Houston Texans, one of the elite teams in the NFL with a final score of 42-14, the Patriots looked to be in top form, until they played the San Fransisco 49ers on Sunday night. The Patriots offense wasn’t able to get things started and the defense seemed to allow rookie QB Colin Kaepernick to throw all over the field. The second half showed to better for the Patriots as Brady found his receivers, but the defense couldn’t stop Kaepernick and his 49ers in a 41-34 loss.
Since rejuvenating their defense with the addition of cornerback Aquib Talib, the Patriots man coverage has improved significantly, having been a major flaw in past years. Alfonso Dennard has been another break-out star for the defense. In his rookie season, Dennard has recorded three interceptions and a pick six.
If the Patriots defense can continue this progress for the rest of the season, then the Pats may be ready to face the tougher teams in their play-off future. The Pittsburgh Steelers and the Baltimore Ravens are just a few that come to mind. The AFC has been a very competitive division throughout the season, especially the AFC North. With the Ravens, Cincinnati Bengals and Steelers all close in the standings, the Patriots will need to prepare for either one of these teams.
Last season, when the Pats played Baltimore at Gillette Stadium, New England barely squeaked out a victory, with a missed field goal by the Ravens Billy Cundiff. Final score: 23-20. Obviously, Baltimore is going to want some post-season revenge, and already got a taste, after beating the Patriots in week 3 with a final score of 31-30.
Peyton Manning and his Denver Broncos could also be tough competition as well. Giving the Patriots a run for their money in week 5, New England defended their home turf and beat the Broncos 31-21. Manning threw for 337 yards and three touchdowns.
Having a phenomenal comeback season with 31 touchdowns, 4,106 passing yards and a 64.1 completion percentage, Manning has been in talks for the MVP. Facing Manning in the playoffs will be no easy task.
Manning and the Patriots have met three times in four years (2003, 2004, 2006) in the post-season, with the winner going on to win that season’s Super Bowl each time.
If the Patriots want to make it to the Super Bowl once again, then they may have to go through their rival, New York Giants. New York has had New England’s number in the Super Bowl, beating the Patriots twice in 2007 and in 2012. The Giants have had a very average season at best, with an 8-5 record. But with a weak division in the NFC East, along side the Dallas Cowboys, Philadelphia Eagles and Washington Redskins, they have found themselves in first place, and on their way to the playoffs.
Though Eli Manning has had a mediocre season, with a measly 20 touchdowns, 15 interceptions and a 58.9 completion percentage, he has shown over the years to be Mr. Clutch when it comes playoff time. Don’t be surprised if the Giants find their way slipping into the post-season and possibly a return to the Super Bowl.
The Patriots need to be ready, come play-off time. They may win the battles in the regular season, but it will be a war to win the Super Bowl.