As the New England Patriots approach the first weekend in the 2014 NFL playoffs, they get to enjoy the fact that the pressure won’t come for another week. The Patriots secured the number two seed in the AFC and get to watch as the wildcard round ultimately decides their divisional round opponent.
For players, coaches and Patriots fans alike, there have to have already been some thoughts about who they would rather have as an opponent. The Patriots will get the highest remaining seed out of the AFC wildcard weekend, thus already eliminating the San Diego Chargers due to the fact they are the lowest and final seed in the conference.
So, out of the Cincinnati Bengals (3rd seed), Indianapolis Colts (4th seed) and Kansas City Chiefs (5th seed), who would the Patriots be wise in cheering for this weekend? Who would be the best matchup for the Patriots, in terms of the easiest route to the AFC Championship game?
At first glance, you’d think the Colts. Lack of a run game doesn’t bode well in the playoffs, and Indianapolis has had the biggest hole in that area out of the playoff teams. Their offensive line play has been poor and the Patriots could take advantage of that aspect. But, would the Colts give New England the best chance to win in two weeks?
I would say no.
To me, the Chiefs are the best matchup. While Kansas City has one heck of a weapon in Jamaal Charles on offense, the defense has taken an enormous step back in the second half of the year. Without Rob Gronkowski, Tom Brady and the offense likely wants the best scenario to put points on the board. Kansas City would give them just that.
After starting out not allowing 20 points in their first nine games, the Chiefs allowed nearly 28 points per game over their last seven. Not only that, but the Chiefs ended the year as the league’s 25th-ranked pass defense and 22nd-ranked run defense. In the playoffs, against Brady, that doesn’t sound like too favorable of a matchup.
If I’m New England, the last team I want to play is the Bengals. Cincinnati’s defense is ranked 5th in defending both the pass and run. They have a quarterback that is coming off of a career year and arguably the top wide receiver in the playoffs. If the Patriots care whatsoever — which contrary to anything they say, they certainly do — about their divisional round opponent, I’d be rooting against the Bengals and in favor of the Chargers this weekend.