Who will the Patriots play next week? A Wild guess
Time to get Wild.
OK, Patriot fans, who will your team play in the AFC Divisional Round a week from Sunday?
We may find out as soon as today.
Of course, the question really should be, who do you want the Patriots to play next Sunday?
Our vote: Hello, Houston. Welcome to Gillette Stadium.
The Texans would be the perfect opponent for Tom Brady & Co. Bill Belichick owns Bill O’Brien. Houston’s fearsome pass rush specialist J.J. Watt almost never gets to Brady or has an impact vs. New England.
Will it happen? Check further down to see. But the bottom line is these Patriots are no sure thing.
“Regardless of who we play, we need to play well and you’ve got to be sharp and alert,” Brady said during his bye week press conference. “I think part of staying sharp is getting your pody physically to its peak as it possibly can this time of year. … It’s a good time of year to have (the bye).”
The Patriots choices for next Sunday are Houston, or the winner of the Baltimore-L.A. Chargers contest. None look like pushovers; all have had stretches this season of plowing through their schedule. Houston won nine straight after an 0-3 start. Baltimore has won six of seven to win the AFC North. L.A.won six straight at one point and own big road comeback victories at Pittsburgh and Kansas City. They may not be in awe of the Patriots at Gillette. We know the Ravens won’t be.
“Where we are,” center David Andrews said, “the rest is up to us to determine how it goes.”
“Every team we play next week and beyond hopefully is a great team,” Brady said, which is a patented Belichick line so often repeated to his players and the media. “They’ve earned it. The team we play will have played a playoff game and we’re going to have to play our best game of the year.”
Can this New England team make the Super Bowl in Atlanta? Sure. We’re not convinced the Kansas City Chiefs are a true No. 1 seed because of their defensive weaknesses and loss of Karim Hunt. The others all have flaws. This is not a Patriot team like 2009, although the playoff expectations are probably the lowest since then.
“We have great character on this team,” Brady said, which is something that couldn’t be said of the ’09 squad. “Like I said, our story’s still being written and fortunately, we have an opportunity to write it.”
It’s just a question of whether it will be a happy ending or not.
Meanwhile, let’s see what teams this Wild Card Weekend will write their own stories as well with happy endings:
COLTS 27, TEXANS 17
Indianapolis looks like it can win a playoff game or two, doesn’t it? Here’s the thing – the Texans have allowed a league high 61 sacks as Deshaun Watson has been running for his life a lot. The Colts have played great the last half of the season. They are strong up front on both sides, Andrew Luck has experience, and this team isn’t afraid of the road. Colts will go to Arrowhead.
CHARGERS 20, RAVENS 17
This is the toughest game of the weekend. Baltimore has played so well defensively, and the Chargers, who really won’t have much of a home field advantage, we feel are the best overall team in the AFC. They also will be seeing Ravens rookie running QB Lamar Jackson for the second time, the only team to do so. Second time is the charm.
Welcome to Gillette Stadium, Don’t Call Us San Diego Chargers.
SEAHAWKS 24, COWBOYS 14
The Seahawks under Pete Carroll have always won their first game of the tournament, as Bill Parcells would call it. That’s remarkable. The Cowboys, meanwhile, are 1-2 in the playoffs under Jason Garrett, and lost to Seattle earlier in the season. The Seahawks credit that game with their turnaround, putting an emphasis on running the football. They’ll do it again and it’s on to New Orleans.
BEARS 24, EAGLES 21
Yes, we know Nick Foles has that playoff magic. But the Eagles this year simply aren’t that good, period. Da Bears are at this point the second best team in the NFC behind the Saints. Chicago’s defense will smother Foles and the Eagles. Rams will get another shot at trying to beat Ted Phillips’ guys.
Enjoy Wild Card Weekend, everyone.
LAST WEEK: 5-2.
REGULAR SEASON: 75-42-2
Tom King can be reached at 594-1251 or email@example.com. Also, follow King on Twitter (@Telegraph_TomK).